Doctor Who: Destiny Of The Doctor - Hunters Of Earth audio review: Back to school
As Who ’s 50th anniversary year gets underway, AudioGO are the first (but far from the last) to cash-in celebrate, with Destiny Of The Doctor , an inter-connected eleven-part series of dramatised readings which dips into the era of every Doctor.
First instalment Hunters Of Earth takes us back to where it all began: Shoreditch in 1963, the stamping ground of Who ’s very first episode, “An Unearthly Child”. As you might expect, it’s something of an exercise in nostalgia for the cognoscenti. Indeed, at times, as mysterious schoolgirl Susan listens to the swinging sounds of John Smith And The Common Men on her transistor, and attracts the attention of a curious schoolteacher (in this case, the equally mysterious Colonel Rook, rather than future companion Ian Chesterton), it almost feels like a remix. There are nods to future stories as well, with a visit to a Magpie Electricals shop, and the odd no doubt knowingly familiar line of dialogue.
The Doctor and his granddaughter have been on Earth for four months, doing their best to blend in. Unfortunately, some sinister force is making the streets of Shoreditch a dangerous place for newcomers, turning the local youth against anyone who’s a bit different. Soon Susan’s having to contend with brick-hurling yobs yelling, “We want your kind aht of ‘ere!”, and “ALIENS OUT!” graffiti.
Early on, the sinister atmosphere of a foggy East End is skilfully evoked, but while the story touches on big issues such as fear of the Other, the treatment is rather shallow. Another problem is over-familiarity. If it were simply a matter of a nostalgic return to the corridors of Coal Hill School, that would be fine, but anyone who’s seen Quatermass And The Pit will find themselves experiencing a double dose of déjà vu. The nature of the threat, once it’s revealed, is implausible, and the resolution is rather pat, with the Doctor conveniently locked in a room with exactly what he needs to save the day. (Sadly he doesn’t do an A-Team and burst out driving a hand-made armoured car.)
Although released by AudioGO, this is a Big Finish production, and the format will be familiar to those who follow their Lost Stories or Companion Chronicles series. Carole Ann Ford takes on both narration and voice-work duties, with support from Tam Williams (the son of Simon Williams, who played Captain Gilmore in “Remembrance Of The Daleks”) as Susan’s posh-boy schoolmate Cedric. Unfortunately, although Ford is the natural choice as a reader, her crotchety First Doctor is at times barely distinguishable from her high-pitched Susan, and her cockney and Eastern European accents are painfully broad.
The overarching story connecting all eleven instalments remains, at this stage, out of focus: Susan has a vague premonition of universe-spanning future catastrophe, and at one point receives a vital clue via her transistor, in the form of a DJ dedication – could that be a message from a future Doctor? These tantalising mysteries may bring you back for future instalments. Otherwise, this trip down Totter’s Lane is rather a dead end.
Ian Berriman twitter.com/ianberriman