WELCOME to this third entry in our brand new series where I hope to help you escape lockdown boredom with review and recommendations on easy to track down audio books. So far we’ve looked at Miss Marple starring June Whitfield and Wind in the Willows read by Richard Briers. Today it’s time for some sci-fi silliness with
DOCTOR WHO – BANG BANG A BOOM
Full cast audio drama
Originally released in 2002 by Big Finish productions
Starring Sylvester McCoy as the Doctor, Bonnie Langford and Rula Lenska
Confession time. I love audios from Big Finish. Love ’em. But how many have I listened to all the way to the end? Well, let’s not go there. Because I didn’t. Part 4 of a Big Finish Doctor Who story is something I rarely get to. I think maybe, three or four out of the dozen or so stories I had on CD did I actually ever get round to finishing. Really there’s no excuse for this because Big Finish quite sweetly structure these full cast plays like the television series of old, in four twenty-five minute segments. They are tailor made to be dipped in and out of, so really it’s just my poor attention span. I approach audios like my writing, soon I get bored and want to get on to the next thing. But lately I’m learning a new discipline with writing and applying that discipline to these audios. As such, this is the first one I’ve finished in eighteen years. That’s shocking, isn’t it. A self confessed Who fan, and a huge back catalogue of these audios languishing on a hard drive. What have I been doing with my life? Let’s not go into that. Let’s look at Bang, Bang A Boom instead.
We’ll start with the title. Dyed in the wool readers will recognise it as an inversion of the famous Eurovision song contest ditty from years ago (Boom Bang a Bang) but that’s okay and entirely apt because this story is set on a space station that’s about to host the Intergalactic Song Contest.
After finding a body and assuming the identity as commander of the space station, the Doctor and Mel (Langford) are determined to keep a critical intergalactic peace summit, erm, peaceful. Except they haven’t rocked up at the peace conference, as is the norm for Doctor Who. The “peace” delegates are actually participants in the contest, the conference itself is on another space station entirely. For once this is not a story where success is a matter of life and death, but a matter of fame and music. And jealousy and murder because somebody is bumping off the pop stars one by one to ferment discord between the competing aliens, and endanger the peace conference.
I never watched Eurovision. But if it was ever half as fun as this story then I must have missed out big time. If you ever stayed in on Saturday night getting increasingly merry as Europe’s finest ran the full gamut between genius and toe-curling, you will get a bigger kick out of this than I did, and you’ll probably get more of the jokes and in-jokes too. But this not a brutal deconstruction of the once annual tradition by any means, but neither is it a kindly homage. The serial takes the tropes and traditions and pokes gentle fun at them whilst telling an original, fun story at the same time. Can the Doctor and Mel uncover the killers? Why is the Doctor suddenly in love with one of the aliens? And can you really trust the shrill, furry Paca delegate who keeps the other aliens under her watchful eyes?
This story doesn’t just play with the conventions of the Eurovision Song Contest but takes the archetypal setting of a space station and does what most – in fact all – of Doctor Who never, ever does and goes all Star Trek on us, which is akin to characters in Coronation Street sitting down in the Rovers Return to talk about what happened on EastEnders last night. It is that much of a no-no; an unwritten taboo. But not here. Because here panto stalwarts McCoy and Langford bring that same knowing wink to the proceedings. There’s the ship’s doctor with her “personal log”, the doors that go “schkze” and the fact that this the space station is called Dark Star 8. Which most definitely is not Deep Space 9. Except it has aliens, a command deck, a bar and intergalactic machinations aplenty.
McCoy and Langford are, it must be said, not the most popular of Doctor / companion partnerships the series ever had. Their time on screen was dogged by crappy scripts, dodgy production values or unsympathetic directors. Not here. Big Finish pride themselves on attention to detail and righting the wrongs of the television serirs. Before they reached a bigger audience these immaculately written and produced audios were made by fans and sold to a mostly fan market on compact disc. Say what you like about fans, but they know their onions. This Doctor / companion partnership had only one short season on TV in 1987 before Langford quit and before McCoy’s doctor was teamed with the streetwise teenager Ace. The latter partnership is what comes to mind when people think of the McCoy era, and I never really paid the four adventures of that short 1987 season much attention. But I have warmed to Langford’s portrayal of hyper active computer expert, Mel, and now having heard this I have transitioned into a proper affectionado. There’s a real lightness of touch in the performance, the two have an easy going relationship and they’re affectionate sparring is one of the highlights of the play. The leads are never less than spot-on here, not just recreating a brief partnership from many years ago, but reprising their roles to discover new facets. They’re two happy turns having a right old giggle and it’s so infectious, you really need to hear it to fully appreciate their interactions. It’s given me an appetite for more Doctor and Mel stories, so I might just head over to Big Finish’s website and see if I can buy a few that I’ve missed. Hopefully they’ll be going for a song.
Available to download from Bigfinish.com
Tomorrow I’m casting my critical, erm, ear over a classic story written for young adults written by Richard Curtis and Tony Robinson. And don’t forget there’s a rich vein of Who material pn NoScriptForLife.com – just head over to the Doctor Who (related) page.
We’re in lurve with audio stories on NoScriptForLife so click HERE for more.
Copyright Martin Gregory 2020