Doctor Who

Starring: Sylvester McCoy
Big Finish Productions
RRP £13.99
ISBN 1 84435 028 2, BFPDWCD7EB
Available now

In the year 3060, the Slithergees, a race of obsequious alien slugs, wish to occupy one of the moons of the human colony Puxatornee. The President faces a tough decision: accept the alien presence, or risk full-scale war. In the year 3090, the Doctor and Mel find that Puxatornee has changed dramatically...

Like Big Finish's previous release, Project: Lazarus, this is very much a game of two halves. But the question is, which of the two CDs, marked "Black" and "White", should you listen to first? The answer to that is either one, because this bold experiment in storytelling has been ingeniously crafted so that the end of each CD leads directly into the other. There isn't a definitive start or a definitive ending. In fact, you could go on listening to this adventure several times over, picking up further nuances every time.

I chose to listen to the White CD first, for no better reason than, when viewed from left to right, white comes before black on the front cover. Once into the Black CD, however, I found myself wishing I'd listened to that one first. And perhaps that's the whole point - a major theme of this story is that whatever your personal circumstances, the grass always seems greener on the other side of the fence.

Writer Jonathan Morris has developed an idea he first used in his Doctor Who novel Festival of Death, that of the time travellers experiencing the adventure out of sequence and meeting people who already know them, even though from the travellers' point of view they have yet to meet. There is a degree of repetition involved, because events told on one CD are mirrored, though not precisely duplicated, on the other. Therefore, whichever CD you listen to second will seem slightly less interesting, because it is less of an unexplored territory than the first one. (One little thing that Big Finish could have done in the interest of variety would have been to put different trailers on the end of each CD, instead of repeating the same ones as they do.) Acknowledging the feelings of déjà vu that his listeners will experience, Morris has named his planet after Punxsutawney, the setting of the Bill Murray time-loop comedy Groundhog Day.

The writer's sense of humour is also evident in his presentation of the Slithergees (played by Daniel Hogarth), who make outrageous demands on the people of Puxatornee, while all the time adopting a "mock humble" mode of speech. The fact that they are blind and need sight guides to describe what is going on around them also helps the storytelling process of this audio adventure. However, there is an uncomfortable anti-immigration ethic underlying the depiction of these aliens, and terms such as "positive discrimination" are used like dirty words.

That reservation aside, Flip-Flop may be flipping unusual, but it certainly isn't a flop.

Richard McGinlay

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