Doctor Who

Starring: Sylvester McCoy
Big Finish Productions
RRP 13.99
ISBN 1 903654 77 7, BFPDWCD7EA
Available now

Dark Space 8: an advanced monitoring station floating among the stars. Its mission: to boldly host the Intergalactic Song Contest. With representatives from myriad worlds attending, the eyes of the universe are on the station. But things take a turn for the worse when people begin to die...

In December 2001, writers Clayton Hickman and Gareth Roberts treated us to the festive frivolity that was The One Doctor. For Christmas 2002, they have brought us the even wackier Bang-Bang-a-Boom!, which again co-stars Bonnie Langford as Mel, this time alongside Sylvester McCoy's Doctor.

Dark Space 8 sounds suspiciously similar to a certain Star Trek series, and indeed it comes complete with its own transporter - sorry, matter beam - system. But whereas the crew of DS9 are a competent and efficient group of people, the personnel on this station are comically inept, from the absent-minded Professor Fassbinder (former Goodie Graeme Garden) to medic Eleanor Harcourt (Keep it in the Family's Sabina Franklyn), who constantly bemoans the fact that she feels "so helpless". In fact, this is a spoof of space operas in general, as becomes apparent when Harcourt and Fassbinder bring the listener up to speed with their previous misadventures via explanatory dialogue that is hilariously lacking in subtlety.

Another obvious pastiche is the Intergalactic Song Contest, which is clearly based upon a certain annual musical competition that takes place in Europe. Unfortunately, MJTV's Soldiers of Love series has already covered this subject in several recent episodes in the guise of its own Galactovision Song Contest. Even the name of the cheerfully sarcastic presenter, Logan, is the same - though in his favour, David Tughan's impersonation of Terry Wogan is markedly superior to the one Mark J Thompson did as Kerry Logan is Soldiers.

But the spoofing doesn't end there. The production also makes a mockery - albeit an affectionate and entirely justified one - of Doctor Who's 24th season, McCoy's first. Before he became the dark manipulator of Seasons 25 and 26, McCoy's portrayal was overtly and notoriously comical. Big Finish's previous visit to this era, in The Fires of Vulcan, glossed over that fact in favour of more subtle characterisation, but Hickman and Roberts have no qualms about bringing us the goofy, proverb-pulverising early Seventh Doctor, and McCoy seems entirely willing to participate in the process. If anything, the Doctor is even crazier here than he was in Time and the Rani, and that's saying something!

And if that wasn't controversial enough, the Doctor, whom Mel supposes must be going though some sort of mid-life crisis, finds himself falling in love with one of the contestants (Queen Angvia, played by Dragonfire's Patricia Quinn). If you took exception to the Eighth Doctor kissing Grace in the TV movie, then this will send you into shock! However, the writers, through the Doctor's dialogue, remind us that the Time Lord has been in love before, in the highly regarded The Aztecs.

The McCoy era is also evoked via the use of Keff McCulloch's 1987 theme arrangement, and by the inclusion of exactly the kind of useless recaps that the BBC used to air back then before each episode. These recaps are accurately rendered by Nick Briggs in his guise as continuity announcer.

This story is not as wonderful as The One Doctor, but it's not far off.

Richard McGinlay