Doctor Who

Starring: Colin Baker
Big Finish Productions
RRP: £14.99
ISBN 1 84435 135 1
Available 22 April 2005

When the Doctor and Mel visit the National Foundation for Scientific Research as it celebrates its centenary, Mel expects only to catch up with her uncle, John Hallam. She doesn't expect to meet her own ancestors. What secret has Henry Hallam kept from his descendants for more than two hundred years? And can Mel escape her past...?

Though it begins pleasantly enough, with the Doctor (Colin Baker) and Mel (Bonnie Langford) exhibiting the kind of cosy companionship that they did on television during The Trial of a Time Lord, it soon becomes apparent that Alison Lawson's story is sluggish and slight on plot.

In fact, its pace is more akin to the average William Hartnell serial. I was reminded in particular of The Time Meddler, which takes three episodes to get to its major plot twist, that the Monk possesses his own TARDIS. Though nowadays we are blasť about the fact that there are other time-travellers out there just like the Doctor, back in 1965 this was a major revelation. The end of Part Three of Catch-1782 is similar in that it could have been shocking or even awe-inspiring back in the 1960s, when audience expectations weren't as sophisticated as they are now, but heard today, when we are all used to such things as time paradoxes and extended side trips through history, its "revelation" is rather predictable. A vital clue is given away by the very fact that Mel initially finds herself in 1781, a year earlier than the story's title.

The other two episode endings don't fare too well either. Perhaps the instalments weren't running to length and their conclusions had to be moved in order to make the episodes equal in duration, because Parts One and Two just seem to end in not particularly "cliffhanger-ish" ways.

On the plus side, Derek Benfield provides amiable support as Mel's Uncle John, while Keith Drinkel is suitably creepy as her ancestor Henry Hallam.

My advice would be to catch this one later rather than sooner.

Richard McGinlay

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