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Audio Drama Review

Book Cover

Doctor Who
Dead London


Starring: Paul McGann
Big Finish Productions
RRP: £10.99
ISBN: 978 1 84435 308 8
Available 09 January 2008

“Someone’s playing with us - manipulating time and space for their own ends.” Once again, the TARDIS has landed in London. But which one? The Doctor and Lucie find themselves trapped in a maze of interlocking Londons, each one occupying a different period, from Roman times through the Middle Ages and World War Two to the present day. But the travellers are not alone in this labyrinth: a killer is on their trail...

According to director Barnaby Edwards (in his sleeve notes and in the interviews at the end of this disc), there was some debate at Big Finish Productions as to which story should kick off this second season of audio adventures for the Eighth Doctor (Paul McGann) and Lucie Miller (Sheridan Smith). Dead London is an unusual choice, owing to its offbeat premise and humorous content, but a very welcome one.

It is penned by British comics legend Pat Mills, the man who helped to launch Marvel UK’s Who strip in Doctor Who Weekly back in 1979. Mills’s script is almost as fast-paced as a comic, changing scene (and period) rapidly throughout the adventure, an aspect that should appeal to younger fans approaching this product having seen the Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant episodes on TV.

Offering further appeal to fans of the new TV series, Rupert Vansittart (who played the Slitheen General Asquith in Aliens of London / World War Three) guest-stars as several aspects of the alien villain, the Sepulchre. He’s better when playing one of his human forms, though - the Sepulchre’s hissing reptilian voice sounds rather silly.

The other major guest performer is Clare Buckfield as crafty crook Spring-Heeled Sophie, who accompanies the Doctor through most of the adventure. The likeable Sophie would have made an excellent series regular. Indeed, Buckfield has already played a companion of sorts (the ersatz sort) in The One Doctor. Another factor that makes it easy to imagine Sophie as a rival to Lucie is the fact that, in British sitcom terms, Buckfield once occupied the niche that has now been inherited by Sheridan Smith. Following a couple of years on Grange Hill, Buckfield played the second Jenny Porter in 2point4 children for much of the Nineties. Similarly, following a couple of years as Ralf Little’s girlfriend in The Royle Family, Smith has played Ralf Little’s girlfriend then wife in Two Pints of Lager & A Packet of Crisps during most of the Noughties. In other words, Smith is the new Buckfield - or Buckfield is the old Smith.

New and old are well and truly mashed up in Nicholas Briggs’s remix of the theme tune. Blending elements from various previous versions of Delia Derbyshire’s realisation of Ron Grainer’s theme, Briggs repeats the cliffhanger “sting” in a Murray Gold stylee, paving the way musically towards the Ninth and Tenth Doctors’ adventures. Rounding off the similarities to the new TV series is a “next time” trailer at the very end of the CD.

All in all, Dead London is dead good, offering appeal to fans young and old.


Richard McGinlay

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