17 July 2017

Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Writer: John Dorney

RRP: £14.99 (CD) / £12.99 (Download)

Release Date: July 2017

Reviewed by: Nick Mellish for Doctor Who Online


"The planet Dashrah is a world of exceptional beauty. Historical ruins; colourful skies; swirling sunsets…

Unsurprisingly, it’s a major tourist trap. So if you want to visit Dashrah, first you’ll have to visit Parking, the artificial planetoid that Galactic Heritage built next door. Parking, as its name implies, is a spaceship park. A huge spaceship park. A huge, enormous spaceship park.

When the TARDIS materialises in Parking’s Northern Hemisphere, the Doctor, Ace and Mel envisage a quick teleport trip to the surface of Dashrah. But they’ve reckoned without the superzealous Wardens, and their robotic servitors… the sect of the Free Parkers, who wage war against the Wardens… the spontaneously combusting spaceships… and the terrifying secret that lies at the lowest of Parking’s lower levels."

John Dorney kicks off this second trilogy of adventures for the Seventh Doctor, Mel and Ace.  The first was notable for three things (four if you include Fiesta of the Damned, Guy Adams’s finest hour):

  1. The absence of Glitz: A Life of Crime especially was all about Glitz and Mel… but no Glitz was to be found, which felt awkward at times, especially given the crime/heist nature of the play.
  2. The introduction of Gloria; a sure-to-be returning antagonist, one day (or at least, that's how she was set up).
  3. The brilliant rapport between Bonnie Langford and Sophie Aldred.

I was excited, then, to see this TRADIS crew return, and with a writer like Dorney in the driving seat, even more enthused.

The High Price of Parking starts with the Doctor promising a place of unrivalled beauty to his two companions, and landing in a car park (or rather a spaceship park) instead, much to their bemusement.  It turns out that this is simply where they are parking the TARDIS before getting a lift to see the famous home of the now-missing Dream Spinners (either a relatively obscure reference to an unmade story from the 1960s or another story arc to keep an eye on: the jury is out so far).

As ever in the Doctor’s world though, trouble is afoot: spaceships are being destroyed and the rebellious Free Parkers are being blamed by the Wardens.  But are the Wardens as innocent as they seem? It looks like one of them is in cahoots with a mysterious woman, and trying to frame the Doctor and his friends for purposes unknown. Cue story.

There are some truly great ideas in this play that are gloriously silly. Car parks the size of continents and inhabitants living there for generations having lost their vehicles? Count me in: it’s a great premise and one that feels perfectly Doctor Who-y.  The trouble is that the rest of the story doesn’t live up to this central premise.  What could be a fun satire is stretched thin and at times feels very familiar, not only to the series as a whole but to Big Finish particularly. We’ve had these sort of stories before in releases such as The Cannibalists and Spaceport Fear and it feels tired here.

A bigger issue with this release though is the direction. Lines and characters and scenarios that could be comedic are often played rather straight or directed flatly, and the cliffhangers are heralded with no punch at all. Listen to the end of Part One: it sounds like McCoy is about to launch into another line or sentence and deliver the final big build up, but instead the episode just sort of… ends and is thoroughly underwhelming. This happens a further two times, and kills the drama dead.  It’s a very rare miss for the usually solid direction of Ken Bentley.

On a more positive note, subscribers will be pleased with this play as it has been released with the exclusive Extended Extras at the same time. For some unknown reason, Big Finish often make subscribers wait anything up to a whole month (and far longer on occasion in the past) before they are available for download, which is far too long as the impetus to listen to them are long gone by the time another play has come around. It’s a pity, too, as the extended length makes for decent interviews, something the edited highlights often lack, coming across as more like PR pieces for how much the actors love working for Big Finish than anything of real substance. These extended cuts must surely be edited at the same time as the condensed versions released on the CDs, seeing as they have had a simultaneous release here and it has been this way with other plays in the past.  Hopefully this long wait is a kink that will be ironed out in the future.

Hopefully, too, the future will be kinder for this TARDIS crew and Dorney. I have full faith that they will both be back to brilliance before too long. As it stands though, this play feels like it could have been a great DWM comic strip or hour-long episode, but at four parts it’s stretched beyond breaking and the lackluster direction does not help paper up some of the cracks.



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