Doctor Who

Starring: Paul McGann
Big Finish Productions
RRP: £10.99
ISBN: 978 1 84435 259 3
Available 08 June 2007

The TARDIS lands on Phobos, a moon of Mars, where adrenaline junkies of the future indulge their passion for extreme sports such as mountain climbing, bungee jumping and gravity-boarding. Originally intended as a high-grade vacation centre, Phobos is now maintained by Kai and Eris. But Kai suspects all is not well - and when "drennies" start turning up dead, it seems his worries are well founded. There's something lurking in the shadows, something infinitely old and infinitely dangerous. It's not for nothing that Phobos is the ancient word for "fear"...

Despite Phobos being a Martian moon, don't expect any Ice Warriors to appear here - or any ambassadors of death or Sutekh, for that matter. There are no old enemies in this story, though there is a nice nod to the mythology of the Virgin Books New and Missing Adventures novels towards the end.

There is, however, a tangible sense of terror, thanks to the performances of the actors, composer Andy Hardwick's incidental music and some screeching monsters realised by sound designer Gareth Jenkins. The dangerous nature of the Doctor himself (Paul McGann) is also played up by Eddie Robson's script. Discussions of the horrors the Time Lord has seen, the horrifying things he has done and what he could yet do in his own future fit in most effectively as a prelude to the new television series.

As with the opening Eighth Doctor/Lucie Miller story, Blood of the Daleks, we have a celebrity guest star playing a doomsayer - this time Timothy West as Kai Tobias. And, like Immortal Beloved, romantically involved couples play significant roles in events.

One of Robson's plot revelations is a bit Colony in Space. It's also very Scooby-Doo - a point made explicit in another amusing bit of Lucie dialogue delivered by Sheridan Smith.

In the interviews at the end of the disc, both West and his co-star Nerys Hughes (who plays Kai's partner Eris) talk about how the audio medium allows actors to play parts for which they might not be physically suited in a visual medium - a view that, interestingly, is echoed by Isla Blair on the recent Fifth Doctor CD Exotron.

I've talked a lot about how this tale resembles other narratives, but fear not. I tend to do that a lot anyway, and Phobos also stands alone as an effective story in its own right.


Richard McGinlay

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