AUDIO DRAMA
Doctor Who
Something Inside

Starring: Paul McGann
Big Finish Productions
RRP: 14.99
ISBN 1 84435 172 6
Available 18 June 2006


WARNING: YOU ARE ABOUT TO ENTER THE CUBE. ALL FORMS OF TELEPATHY ARE PROHIBITED. DO NOT ATTEMPT TELEPORTATION UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES. PSYCHIC POWERS WILL BE FORCIBLY REMOVED. CAUTION: YOU HAVE NO RIGHTS. YOU HAVE NO POWERS. YOU HAVE NO DEFENCE. YOU ARE NOW INSIDE THE CUBE...

One of the most immediately noticeable aspects of this production is the sound design by Joseph Fox. His incidental music, with its unusual mixture of synthesised strings - ponderously plucked strings working at odds with the more urgent bow work, like hippies protesting in the face of violent conflict - would not seem out of place in a movie about the Vietnam War. It just feels as though it's of that era and mood.

This is entirely appropriate, because the story, like Star Trek: The Next Generation's The Hunted and The X-Files' Sleepless, is a sci-fi metaphor for the punishments endured by Vietnam veterans who, altered by their experiences in the war, found it difficult to integrate back into society. For many vets it was the horrors of the conflict and their lethal training that made them a menace to society. For the inmates of the Cube, it is the deadly psychic powers they acquired during their training.

The Doctor (Paul McGann), a man not unknown for his mental prowess, finds himself a prisoner within the Cube, but he finds it hard to defend his innocence, owing to the fact that he's lost his memory. Yes, I know, the Eighth Doctor suffering from amnesia - again. I could list some previous examples of this incarnation's propensity for memory-loss (on TV, in books and on audio) but it might be quicker to list the stories in which Doctor number eight doesn't lose his memory!

A characteristic more associated with McGann's successor, Christopher Eccleston, is the Doctor's interest in football. The Time Lord had never paid much attention to the beautiful game before the 2005 television series, instead favouring more upper-class pursuits such as cricket. Then, in Aliens of London, the Ninth Doctor admitted to Mickey Smith that the TARDIS scanner receives "all the basic packages" of TV channels, including the football. Perhaps with this in mind - or, more likely, McGann's own love of the game - writer Trevor Baxendale has the Eighth Doctor making a number of footie-related metaphors.

A slightly more explicit piece of foreshadowing of the new television series is the revelation that the Doctor owns more than one sonic screwdriver. This might be an attempt to explain the device's radical change of appearance between the old series and the new. It's also possible that one of the screwdrivers (probably the more advanced model, which seems to have an almost infinite number of settings) is the one that Romana gave to the Seventh Doctor at the end of the New Adventures novel Lungbarrow.

The production is a little slow-moving, but this is offset to an extent by Baxendale's jumbling of the sequence of events during the first disc, by means of flashbacks to the TARDIS crew's arrival.

All in all, there's something inside the CD case worth listening to.

Richard McGinlay