AUDIO DRAMA
Doctor Who
Caerdroia

Starring: Paul McGann
Big Finish Productions
RRP 13.99
ISBN 1 84435 104 1
Available 10 November 2004


The Doctor finally has a chance to understand the nature of the cosmic game in which he's an unwilling pawn, and regain the TARDIS. Threatened and desperate, the Kro'ka abandons his behind-the-scenes machinations to confront the Time Lord directly. But will they both lose their way in the maze of the strange world in which they find themselves...?

As the "alternative universe" saga draws towards its conclusion, this penultimate story gives us more than the standard "weird sh*t happens" type of tale that we have come to expect. There's still plenty of weird sh*t going on, to be sure, but at long last the Doctor makes some progress in his dual quest to comprehend his surroundings and locate his beloved space-time craft.

The Kro'ka (Stephen Perring) plays a major role in this adventure, a part that proves far more effective than his usual brief scenes of gloating from the sidelines. Think of the Valeyard in The Ultimate Foe, as opposed to his bit parts in the other twelve episodes of The Trial of a Time Lord. (More comparison with The Ultimate Foe shortly...)

Both Perring and Paul McGann enjoy multiple roles in this offbeat and often amusing story. McGann is particularly funny as a boyishly enthusiastic aspect of the Doctor's personality, during which he allows a little more of his native Liverpudlian accent to creep through than usual. Meanwhile, Charley (India Fisher) and C'rizz (Conrad Westmaas) have become tangibly more comfortable in each other's presence, exchanging plenty of friendly and witty banter.

Perhaps betraying a few gaps in her Doctor Who knowledge, writer Lloyd Rose repeats some bits of weird sh*t that have been done before in the television series: a group of bureaucratic duplicates are analogous to the numerous Mr Popplewicks in The Ultimate Foe, while the recursive architecture of Caerdroia (which is Welsh for maze) is extremely reminiscent of Castrovalva. Rose also overlooks the fact that the Doctor once said an aspirin could kill him, when the Eighth Doctor declares a need for that very drug - perhaps his headache is so bad that he wants to top himself!

Following last month's overlong The Last, this story is more tightly paced at just 105 minutes. All in all, Caerdroia is suitably a-maze-ing.

Richard McGinlay

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