Doctor Who: Power Play
The Sixth Doctor experiences some fallout when an old companion pops up. And when we say old…
Writer: Gary Hopkins
Starring: Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant, Deborah Watling, Miles Jupp, David Warwick, Andrew Dickens
Colin Baker is not my favourite Doctor. In fact, he's my least favourite Doctor. However, on audio he absolutely shines. This is probably due to his default acting performance being far more suited to a sound-only medium than a visual one. Oh, alright — he's embarrassingly melodramatic and unconvincing on the telly. But here, well, he's just great. I'd go so far as to say he's my favourite audio Doctor. He's certainly the one who understands the requirements of the medium the best.
And so — another 'lost' story for Colin. Power Play, one of the many proposed adventures for the cancelled Season 23, is by Gary Hopkins, a writer of several Doctor Who audios. Right from the start, this is an entertaining story showcasing a smashing chemistry between the Doctor and his companion, Peri (Nicola Bryant), that was rarely allowed to surface in televised Who. Nicola Bryant is far less irritating than she was on TV, and delivers a grounded and naturalistic performance, perfectly complementing Baker's more, um, 'brash' turn.
The story is about nuclear power, its pitfalls and its benefits, and how the nuclear waste is being sent back in time to be used for alien purposes. The plot itself is rather silly, involving a race of intergalactic police that make the Judoon seem positively scarey. In many ways, Power Play is like a comic strip adaptation, and that's no bad thing. There's a lightness in the performances — especially Miles Jupp, extremely good in this — that makes this one of the more enjoyable Big Finish plays for a while. It balances the humour and the excitement very well indeed.
I've put this off for as long as I can, but I have to mention Deborah Watling as Victoria Waterfield (I do — I'm contractually obliged). Anyone expecting her to sound remotely like the Victoria of late '60s will be disappointed. She's only 64, but sounds nearer 80. This is not a criticism (how can I possibly criticize someone's natural voice?), but it is a fact. She appears to be gargling with a melon for much of the time, or at least that's what it sounds like; it takes some getting used to. But if you can get past this unusual vocal delivery then she's fine. Hardly necessary to the plot, and very much a relic of John Nathan-Turner's 'stunt' casting, but fine. The moment when she meets the Doctor but doesn't recognise him is surprisingly affecting.
Despite its nod to politics and the Green agenda, Power Play doesn't really have its heart in anything too serious. There are no boring polemical debates, thank goodness, and nothing tricksy about the storytelling. Featuring a cast who are having a great deal of fun and a writer who's more concerned with entertaining his audience than educating them, this is an easy-to-like adventure that ticks all the right boxes for me.
Listen to the trailer here:
Doctor Who: Power Play is out now.
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