Doctor Who
Arrangements for War

Starring: Colin Baker
Big Finish Productions
RRP £13.99
ISBN 1 84435 095 9
Available 28 May 2004

Following their escape from the Forge, the Sixth Doctor and Evelyn have things to discuss. She is unhappy with the Time Lord's attitude towards death, and feels that they should spend some time apart. Landing on the supposedly safe world of Vilįg, the Doctor's actions land him in the middle of a dangerous liaison - one that could alter the planet's future...

It seems like ages since we last heard from Dr Evelyn Smythe (Maggie Stables), and indeed it has been almost a year. Therefore a brief recap of events in Project: Lazarus, conveyed in dialogue at the beginning of this audio drama, is not merely useful but essential, since the events in that story (and also, one presumes, Doctor Who and the Pirates) directly affect the interaction of the TARDIS travellers in this one.

At first I thought that the writer, newcomer Paul Sutton, and the performers were laying on the Doctor (Colin Baker) and Evelyn's emotional strife a little too thick. With all their talk of relationships, feelings and spending time apart, they come across like an estranged married couple. It becomes apparent later on that such a comparison is deliberate, when the local Governor Rossiter (Gabriel Woolf) makes a wry comment to Dr Smythe about the similarity. Rest assured, however, that there remains no evidence of any "hanky panky" going on in the TARDIS, though the Doctor makes it plain that Evelyn, as someone older and wiser than the majority of his travelling companions, is very special to him.

Two further plot strands in this romantic tale also concern loving relationships, in particular the one between a soldier (Lewis Rae) and a princess (Katarina Olsson), who is destined for a loveless marriage of political convenience. Passionate performances by Rae and especially Olsson make this a truly moving production and also ensure that the Doctor's role as go-between never seems amoral (even though he is, in fact, encouraging adultery).

A couple of things distract the ear slightly along the way. The first concerns telephones, the sound effects for which are those of ordinary Earthbound ring tones, dialling tones and keypads, which seem somewhat out of place on an alien planet.

The other distracting factor is the voice of Gabriel Woolf, who is better known to Doctor Who fans as Sutekh in the Tom Baker serial Pyramids of Mars. Whenever the gentle Rossiter speaks of death and destruction, I couldn't help thinking of Sutekh the Destroyer, the Lord of Death! That is not to say Woolf doesn't give a splendid performance, though, because he does.

Paul Sutton and director Gary Russell have done well to arrange this finely crafted character-based play.

Richard McGinlay

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