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Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who
The Stageplays
Seven Keys to Doomsday


Starring: Trevor Martin
Big Finish Productions
RRP: £14.99 (CD), £12.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 84435 374 3
Available 30 October 2008

A newly regenerated Doctor takes his young companions, Jenny and Jimmy, to the desolate world of Karn. There they must face the terrifying Clawrentulars, a powerful supercomputer and the once-mighty Master of Karn, and brave fiendish traps to locate seven crystalline keys, which together form the Crystal of All Power. If they fail in their task, the Doctor’s arch enemies, the Daleks, will use the crystal to power their ultimate weapon and unleash their evil upon the entire universe...

To borrow a term from another of Big Finish’s series within a series, Trevor Martin might be considered the first “unbound” Doctor. Unlike Peter Cushing’s movie Dr Who, Martin’s incarnation is a Time Lord, though he’s never appeared in the television series. In the 1974 stage production of Seven Keys to Doomsday, he regenerated from Jon Pertwee by virtue of some on-screen effects, making him an alternate Fourth Doctor. In this new audio adaptation, he regenerates from an uncredited Nicholas Briggs (who, as usual, also provides the voices of the Daleks), so this story doesn’t really fit into the main series’ continuity.

Martin’s Doctor is similar to Pertwee’s in terms of spouting moral messages, which is perhaps not surprising given the time of writing, the identity of the writer (Terrance Dicks) and the fact that Pertwee was originally intended to star in the stage production. However, Doc Martin shows more of a tendency to get caught up his mission, to overlook the welfare of individuals while focusing on his quest for the greater good. Despite the passage of 34 years, the actor still makes the role his own.

Though it starred an unfamiliar Doctor, the original stage production did feature a familiar face aboard the TARDIS, in the shape of Wendy Padbury, who had previously played Zoe Heriot five years earlier. Feeling that Padbury would no longer sound young enough to play the teenage Jenny, the Big Finish production team have turned instead to her daughter, Charlie Hayes. The actress, who often sounds a lot like her mother, previously worked for Big Finish in the memorable role of Jade in Master.

As with the audio adaptation of The Ultimate Adventure, some of Dicks’s dialogue is unnaturally explanatory. Surely the Doctor doesn’t need to tell us that he’s about to “operate the [TARDIS] controls” when we can hear the sound effects perfectly well.

Also in common with The Ultimate Adventure, Dicks borrows ideas from previous Who stories, particularly the Dalek ones. The idea of a TARDIS crewmember hiding inside a Dalek casing had been done before in The Daleks and Planet of the Daleks (and would be reused again in The Ultimate Adventure), while the quest to prevent the Daleks from obtaining the power source to a devastating weapon owes much to the search for the core of the Time Destructor in The Daleks’ Master Plan. The ancient city of a once-powerful race, whose descendents are now enslaved by the Daleks, recalls the serial Death to the Daleks, a battle cry that is actually heard in the context of the play, while the notion of finding a doomsday device on such a planet also echoes Colony in Space.

However, Dicks’s script also provided inspiration for future stories. The planet Karn, or at least a namesake, would subsequently appear in Dicks’s The Brain of Morbius, while the Doctor would become involved in the search for an even more powerful crystalline key in the Key to Time season.

Not even the Big Finish production team is immune to borrowing ideas, as sound designers Richard Fox and Lauren Yason create a vocal effect for Paul Thornley as the Computer that sounds an awful lot like Deep Thought in the radio and television versions of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I suppose it’s a useful shorthand for “awesomely powerful supercomputer” when you don’t have visuals to help tell the story. (As an interesting side note, future Hitchhiker star Simon Jones portrayed the Master of Karn in the 1974 production, a role played here by Steven Wickham.)

Both CDs also contain plenty of backstage insights into the making of both the original stageplay and the audio version, including Hayes’s recollections of growing up as “the daughter of Zoe”.

The play ends with the possibility of Jenny and Jimmy (Joe Thompson) joining the Doctor for another trip in the TARDIS, so here’s hoping for more “unbound” adventures with Doc Martin...


Richard McGinlay

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