12 September 2015

Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Written By: Mike Tucker

RRP: £14.99 (CD) / £12.99 (Download)

Release Date: August 2015

Reviewed by: Nick Mellish for Doctor Who Online

Review Posted: 12th September 2014

The Doctor and Mel land in what appears to be an orbiting warehouse, a delivery facility with a dangerously erratic computer.

Whilst Mel is helping with repairs, the Doctor begins to realise that not everything in the warehouse is as it seems. Why do no goods ever seem to leave the shelves? Why are the staff so obsessed with the stocktake? And who is the mysterious Supervisor?

On the planet below, the Doctor discovers that the computer might be the least of their problems – and that they should be more concerned with the spacestation's mould and vermin...

* * *
So, here’s my confession about Season 24: I was lucky.  I was lucky, because I watched it at exactly the right time, at the age of around ten-years-old when the stories from that season were being repeated on the satellite station UK Gold (yes, yes, I’m that young).  As a ten-year-old child, I absolutely loved those stories: bright, colourful, silly but with some great ideas, light in parts and sad at others, I thought it was great, and whilst I was not blind to the jolt to Season 25 being abrupt in tone and look, I honestly did not care. The stories made more sense than most of The Trial Of A Time Lord did to me, McCoy was arresting in the lead role, and I could relate to Mel in the same way I failed to with some other companions in the 1980s: she just wanted to be there and have fun.  She didn’t want to secretly kill the Doctor; she wasn’t part of a grander scheme; she lacked a tragic death in the family. She was just fun, and so was the Seventh Doctor, and at that time in my life, as a child, it was exactly what I wanted to see.

Now, as an adult, with greater critical faculties (or so some would argue), I can see the weaknesses of Season 24, and sure, I can understand why people were so aghast at the time (to an extent: Doctor Who is, so far as I’m concerned, a children’s TV show and always will be) but I still like that fresh, comic book feel and tone, despite its failings, and so I was dead excited when I started listening to The Warehouse, this month’s Big Finish offering from Mike Tucker.

Set in… well, a warehouse and using everyday language such as points, loyalty cards and aisles with a ting of cultism and religiosity, the set-up is perfectly in keeping with the on-screen adventures of the Seventh Doctor and Mel. Perhaps it’s the fact Tucker was there at the time which lends proceedings an air of genuine authenticity, or maybe it’s just a rollicking good script, but this could have been done at the time with few, if any, changes.

Where it would sadly have been changed is in the characterisation of Mel as she actually gets a lot to do that doesn’t resort to her getting captured, screaming or requiring rescuing. It did tickle me, though, to listen to the extras for this tale, and how everyone seems to be enthusing that Mel never gets to do much computer programming in these plays… straight after We are the Daleks and after stories such as The Juggernauts in the past, which made a great song and dance about her skills in this field!

Sadly, there is also an enormous sense of déjà-vu about proceedings as the set-up is incredibly similar to another Mel outing from Big Finish, the play Spaceport Fear: substitute an airport becoming the basis for a society for a warehouse doing that instead, and you have a pair so alike it’s a wonder no-one cries “Snap!” or that neither the Doctor nor Mel remark upon it, let alone the script editors at Big Finish. I think the type of story being told is a far better fit here with the specific Doctor/Companion pairing, but even so, it’s a pity in that it rather suggests that the well may be running dry.

It also diminishes this play’s status as the only one in this trilogy with wholly original elements, sandwiched as it is twixt Daleks and Sontarans.

It doesn’t stop this being highly enjoyable though, and it manages to make the sound of someone sipping water truly repugnant, which is an unusual achievement in its own right but a commendable one, too!

I know people are often mean to you, Season 24, but I love you all the same. It’s good to have you back.

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