Doctor Who

Starring: Sylvester McCoy
Big Finish Productions
RRP: £14.99
ISBN-13: 978 1 84435 176 3
ISBN-10: 1 84435 176 9
Available 24 August 2006

Subject 2660: Celia Fortunatè. Subject experiencing traumatic, violent delusions during waking moments. Subject remains pacified and under control of Whitenoise. Medication has been prescribed... Subject 0357: Vi Yulquen. Designated Matriarch of the Needle. Subject is under constant surveillance due to her wish to experience harm. Editing is required... Subject 3999: the Doctor. Subject has committed homicide. His propensity for violence remains unchecked. Analysis suggests synchronisation with the killer. The Doctor will attempt to kill again. He must be stopped...

One of these days I'm going to embark upon a programme of watching and listening to all of the Doctor's television and audio adventures in chronological order. By chronological I mean the order in which the Time Lord himself experiences the stories, including the BBC's audio releases of missing TV episodes and Big Finish's audio plays. This will, of course, prove ultimately impossible, because new stories are being released or transmitted on a regular basis - and I certainly won't be waiting until I've got to the end of the series before, for instance, watching new episodes of the television show! Nevertheless, I am sure it will prove an intriguing experience to keep my viewing and listening as chronological as possible.

I am equally sure that such an exercise would benefit one's enjoyment of this particular story. Red is hampered not only by a plot that goes nowhere very fast (which is ironic given its inclusion of a drug called Slow) but it also has the misfortune of stepping into territory so recently trodden by the Eighth Doctor audios. Sinister double meanings given to everyday phrases (such as "white noise", "red tape" and "editing")? Time Works already did it. A mental parasite hopping from host to host within an institutionalised society? Been there, done that in Something Inside. Heard in chronological order, Red would come across as more original, and there'd be a far greater gap between it and the stories that cover the same ground.

On the other hand, chronologically speaking, Stewart Sheargold's tale immediately follows Unregenerate!, in which the Seventh Doctor's (Sylvester McCoy) mental health was similarly called into question. At least the characters themselves acknowledge this coincidence. Once again we are treated to some OTT "mad" acting by McCoy.

Rather more intriguing is the angle the writer takes regarding the Doctor's propensity for violence. The Time Lord states that he has learned to keep his killer instinct in check but it still simmers beneath the surface, waiting for a chance to be unleashed. Readers of Paul Cornell and Steve Lyons's New Adventures novels will know the theory about the unborn Seventh Doctor deliberately piloting the TARDIS into the beam at the beginning of Time and the Rani in order to finish off his aggressive sixth incarnation and emerge as Time's Champion (Love and War). However, his resentful sixth persona still lurks, shackled within his subconscious (Timewyrm: Revelation, Head Games). Despite his rejection of violence, the Seventh Doctor on television attempts to exterminate the Daleks (Remembrance of the Daleks) and very nearly succumbs to the bestial lure of the Cheetah Planet (Survival).

On the whole, though, Red is over-long and repetitive. Editing is indeed required.

Richard McGinlay

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