Doctor Who
The Game

Starring: Peter Davison
Big Finish Productions
RRP: 14.99
ISBN 1 84435 100 9
Available 08 March 2005

On the planet Cray, the Gora and the Lineen are all set to face off in the grudge match to end all grudge matches. The players are limbering up, the commentators are preparing, and the fans are daubing themselves in their team's colours. When the Doctor and Nyssa arrive, however, they realise that the sport called naxy is anything but just a game...

Big Finish's Doctor Who adventures are usually divided into four episodes, reflecting the typical format of the old TV series. I have often commented that the duration of many of these audio adventures would have been sufficient to make six episodes. For once, the production team have set out to make a six-part story, featuring a Doctor (Peter Davison) who never appeared in such a serial on TV. Ironically, this one is not really long enough to justify such a structure, and the episodes end up lasting only around 20 minutes each.

Another thing Davison never got to do in the TV show was work with William Russell, who played Ian Chesterton alongside William Hartnell. But he might have done, because Ian was originally going to feature in the serial Mawdryn Undead, before the plan was changed and the Fifth Doctor instead met a retired Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart teaching maths at a public school.

Now at last the two actors meet - in a story that tantalises the listener with the possibility that Ian may have made a return appearance. Though Russell's character goes by the name of Lord Carlisle, he claims to know the Time Lord of old... Russell is no stranger to Who in the audio medium, having narrated BBC Audio's Marco Polo CD and Doctor Who and the Daleks MP3-CD. He turns in an endearing performance here as a would-be peacemaker.

Interestingly, it's easy to imagine Ian Chesterton in the situation in which the Doctor finds himself: coerced into participating in a gladiatorial fight to the death. That's the sort of thing that Chesterton had to deal with on a weekly basis.

There are shades of Chris Boucher's recent novel Match of the Day as writer Darin Henry (Seinfeld, Futurama) takes a few satirical swipes at the world of spectator sports. Violence that once took place among fans off the pitch has influenced the game itself. Jonathan Pearce from TV's Match of the Day lends his voice to the role of the excitable commentator Garny Diblick, who, in a moment of supreme black comedy, continues his commentary even as events take a deadly turn for the worse. Diblick's narration also comes in very handy for describing, in an unobtrusive manner, incidents that we as listeners cannot see.

The plot isn't as surprising as Darin Henry probably thinks it is, especially if you've seen the Star Trek episode The Gamesters of Triskelion. Nevertheless it passes an entertaining couple of hours.

As I have indicated, there's only enough material here for five old-style episodes, rather than six, but any additional story padding would have resulted in a tale as slow as many of those six-parters of old, so let's be grateful that The Game doesn't run into extra time.

Richard McGinlay

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