Snake Head

Starring: Siri O'Neal and Nicholas Deal
Big Finish
RRP: 10.99
ISBN 1 84435 114 9
Available 08 March 2005

A garbled phone call to the emergency services, a savaged body found on government land and an ancient burial site at an archaeological dig lead Colonels Robert Dalton and Emily Chaudhry to investigate strange goings-on in Southend. What is out there on the beach? And what of the man who's just been smuggled into the country...?

This audio adventure grasps the political hot potato that is immigration. The mysterious killing of immigrant cockle-pickers in Southend is clearly inspired by the tragic deaths of dozens of Chinese cocklers in Morecambe Bay in February 2004. Elsewhere, an eccentric archaeologist (played by Ian Brooker) reminds Colonel Dalton (Nicholas Deal) that most Britons are immigrants to this land, if you just look back far enough in history.

Lighter moments are provided by Kevin (Ian Hayles), a very plain-speaking man of Chinese descent, and Colonel Chaudhry's (Siri O'Neal) repeated protestations that "He's [Dalton is] not my boyfriend!" The monster of the piece - a kind of invisible vampire from Eastern European folklore - raised an unintentional smile for me, but only because it reminded me of the "invisible monster" That's Amazing sketch from The Fast Show!

With the departure of General Lethbridge-Stewart at the end of the previous instalment, and with an all-new monster, the only Doctor Who element in this story is the UNIT organisation itself. I wonder, therefore, why the list of other titles of interest on the CD's inner sleeve comprises the Dalek Empire and Doctor Who Unbound series. Surely the Gallifrey and Sarah Jane Smith series would be more relevant, the former for its political thriller aspects, and the latter for its Earthbound setting.

Despite its minimal association with the Who universe, Snake Head is an enjoyable tale.

Richard McGinlay

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