5 November 2018

Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Written By: Guy Adams

RRP: £14.99 (CD) / £12.99 (Download)

Release Date: October 2018

Reviewed by: Nick Mellish for Doctor Who Online


"The Doctor and Ace are locked up. The TARDIS is gone. Things just couldn’t get worse, could they?

Of course they could. Things can always get worse — the new President of the Solar System, Josiah W Dogbolter, didn’t get where he is in life without learning that. That’s why he has a Quantum Possibility Engine. It’s a wonderful machine, creating a wonderful Solar System. And with this wonderful device, he can bring happiness and peace to all.

Possibly.

Either that or tear the universe to shreds, it’s hard to be sure which."

Right now as I write this, Doctor Who on screen is going out of its way to be accessible to new audiences. If you dived in to The Woman Who Fell To Earth having never seen the show before, you’d find your feet soon enough and not feel you’re missing out on anything - fleeting reference to a white-haired Scotsman aside.

On the other side of the fence, Big Finish seem to be increasingly catering for a niche audience; one which is familiar and comfortable with several dozen strings of continuity. Take the Main Range right now; the latest trilogy ends with this play here, The Quantum Possibility Engine by Guy Adams, but that’s not it for the Seventh Doctor. The next release is Warlock’s Cross, a solo outing for this incarnation at a later point in his lifetime and a sequel to the ‘Modern UNIT’ trilogy that’s been running across the year which also sees the return of Klein. Straight after that we dip back in his timeline and also Ace’s (in relation to this month’s play) with Muse of Fire. It’s a tangled web of time and placement at odds with everything else right now.

Even this month’s play is not immune. We have Narvin in it; a popular character from the spin-off series Gallifrey, but a younger Narvin than the one in much of that series, and the main antagonist is Dogbolter from the Doctor Who Magazine comic strips. In fairness, both elements are explained away in the script, so no prior knowledge is necessary but it shows a far more insular and fan-focussed approach to the show.

Perhaps appropriately then, this play often feels like a bit of a greatest hits collection at times. The main bulk of Part Two and Part Three for Ace, the Doctor and Narvin will be very familiar to anyone who has read the comic strip The Glorious Dead, watched Forest Of The Dead and to a lesser extent Human Nature, or listened to Big Finish’s own The Crowmarsh Experiment. That’s nothing compared to the ending though, where a great portion of it isn’t so much similar to The Girl Who Died as a direct rip-off. It’s hard to not have a sense of slight fatigue at times thanks to this, all of which makes it surprising that I enjoyed the play as much as I did. In fact, I’d say it’s one of Adams’s best outings so far.

The points about repetition aren’t its only problem, mind. Mel falls into the tired trap of telling someone a load of exposition for no reason at all other than to have this information used against them later on, which always irks me (it’s justified when Dogbolter does similar later on), and I’m not sure I ever once bought the reason Mel didn’t tell the Doctor or Ace about her predicament: that smacks more of needing a cliffhanger ending and arc across a trilogy than anything truthful. But everything else has a real sense of fun about it, so much so that I’m happy to let these niggles pass.

I’d somehow completely missed the fact Narvin was in the play, so that came as a genuine surprise.  His inclusion here makes sense, far more so than it ever did with Dark Eyes years ago now. I must be honest that I was uncertain when he first popped up that it would be an inclusion for the sake of an inclusion as was the case there, but thankfully not. Sean Carlsen is always brilliant value regardless of script and he’s a welcome addition here, too.

The same goes for Toby Longworth, whose Dogbolter is as fun here as he was in The Maltese Penguin, many moons ago when our canonical Doctors numbered but eight. His inclusion feels perfectly suited to the overall comic-y ambience of the play and whilst I think continual cameos and kisses from the past aren’t healthy when done with regularity, I wouldn’t be against more of this type on occasion if handled with equal skill.

Big Finish may be playing hopscotch with the story placement in their release schedule, but plays such as this one leave me smiling. Perfect? By no means, and yet here I am giving it a thumbs up. A patchwork of past glories it may be, but it’s fun and a nice way to pass a couple of hours. In the end, Doctor Who should aspire to be this way, always.


+ The Quantum Possibility Engine is OUT NOW, priced £14.99 (CD) / £12.99 (Download).

+ ORDER this title on Amazon!


RSS Feed
News Key
News Home
General
The New Series
The Classic Series
Spinoffs
Merchandise
Site
Blog Entries
Reviews Key
Reviews Home
Books / Magazines
DVD / Blu-ray
Audio
Toys / Other
TV Episodes
Search
Upgrade Your DWO Site Account!