Doctor Who: The Butcher Of Brisbane
Wedding bells ring for Nyssa and the Doctor picks up a new Australian companion...
Writer: Marc Platt
Starring: Peter Davison, Sarah Sutton, Janet Fielding, Mark Strickson, Angus Wright, Rupert Frazer, Felicity Duncan, Daniel Weyman, Daisy Ashford
What connects Logopolis and The Talons of Weng Chiang? That's right, they both feature an ugly midget with squinty eyes who walks with a stick up his arse. [You'll get complaints - Ed] They also, of course, feature throwaway mentions of Brisbane. While Tegan's birthplace is fairly apposite to the character, Robert Holmes was a master of dropping in sexy but meaningless references to give his stories weight.
In Talons we were treated to a plethora of esoteric ephemera: a Peking Homunculus with a pig-brain made for the Commissioner of the Icelandic Alliance in a future ice age, the Doctor marching with the Filipino Army as they advance on Reykjavik in the 51st century, time agents, Zygma energy, Findecker discovering the double nexus particle, Brisbane and the Doctor fishing with the Venerable Bede. None of these things were really important to Talons — its villain Magnus Greel was a generic baddie — but they all sounded so tantalisingly 'real.' We were never going to see these things, and we didn't need to. In fact, if we had seen them, Talons would ironically have appeared less 'real.'
But now, in Big Finish's ongoing mission to dramatise every single line in the history of Doctor
Who, all of Holmes' delightfully whimsical literary footnotes — except the Venerable Bede, sadly — are shoehorned into a fanwank script by Ghost Light's Marc Platt. Magnus Greel is now an unscrupulous politician who's agenda is power at any cost, Findecker is the scientist experimenting with mutations and time travel, and the whole thing is set in a future Australia and Iceland in the grip of an ice age. (It's very hard to take a Filipino-Iceland war seriously — I'm reminded of The Day Today's glorious Australia-Hong Kong war spoof).
Not only that, but the Doctor and Tegan have been separated from Nyssa and Turlough by a gap of three years, allowing Nyssa to fall in love with the sneaky Greel and become his bride. Of Doom! This is one of the more preposterous elements of a script that takes incidental elements from a widely-regarded classic and turns them into a bog-standard Doctor Who runaround that borders on the daft. If you thought Talons' giant rat was bad, then you're not going to like the giant talking Dingo called Chops, who the Doctor adopts as a pet. Yep, that's what I said - a talking Dingo. Quite well voiced by John Banks, who channels the spirit of the Lukoser from The Trial of the Time Lord, but even so…
The incidental music, for once, is rather good. Steve McNichol and Kelly Ellis's pop synth score suggests a blend of Hanz Zimmer's M:I-2 and Roger Limb's The Caves of Androzani. It works pretty well. And there's little of that annoying background Muzak when we're trying to listen to the cast conveying emotion. If Big Finish actually cared to listen to classic Doctor Who they might realise how little music there actually was in those stories.
The cast, with the exception of Janet Fielding (who admits in the Making Of feature that she doesn't understand the play), are excellent. I had problems sometimes with delineating Strickson from Daniel Weyman (playing Ragan) as both have very similar voices. Angus Wright is good as Greel, although not a patch on Michael Spice's cadaverously evil performance in Talons. The accents are…variable - one character (I won't mention who) appears to have a South African accent, which I think is supposed to be Australian. It's certainly not Icelandic. Or perhaps it's Austro-South African-Icelandic. Yes, that's probably what it is.
Platt's dialogue is perfunctory. One line — "I'll shoot your alien kneecaps off!" — was presumably written for a bet, which I hope he won. His plot is equally anodyne, but does contain an element from another, less well-loved, Doctor Who story. Findecker's Time Cabinet sends people back in time like the titular object in Timelash. Now there's a story that's in dire need of a Big Finish audio prequel. Even a talking Dingo might improve upon the original.
Listen to the trailer here:
Doctor Who: The Butcher of Brisbane is out now.
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