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8 February 2021

Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Written By:Roland Moore

RRP: £14.99 (CD) / £12.99 (Download)

Release Date: January 2021

Reviewed by: Nick Mellish for Doctor Who Online


"Sometimes the TARDIS takes the Doctor to where he needs to go...

Answering a distress call from the out-world of Triketha, the Doctor and Constance Clarke discover human colonists battling against an onslaught of giant, malevolent insects. The insects’ sting induces a coma, and it is only a matter of time before all the colonists succumb.

The Doctor is curious as to the origins of the insects, which appeared from nowhere, and offers his assistance to the colony’s governor. But is this the Doctor’s first visit to Triketha, or has he been here before? The Doctor must confront a past that he has no memory of and take responsibility for the consequences of his actions."

WARNING: The following review contains spoilers. You have been warned!

In the interviews for Colony of Fear, it's mentioned that the gestation period for it has been around two years and that Roland Moore's script has taken many twists and many turns along the way. This utterly blindsided me as I had come away from the play feeling it had been rushed into production and needed at least a couple more passes by a script editor.

Yes, sadly all good things must come to an end and so the run of very good Main Range plays stutters to a halt. On paper, it sounds okay: parasitic mind wasps vs. the Sixth Doctor on a jungle planet, trying to defend a colony when a face from his past turns up. In practice, it's lacklustre at best.

You can see this in the characters, who act in a way that serve plot beats but little else. Why else would Tarlos not immediately reveal all to the Doctor once it's clear the Doctor can't remember? Because it's needed for a cliffhanger and then needed to pad out the following episode. Why does the Doctor dismiss the idea of saving the colony so quickly? Because we're near the end of the play. Why does Edwin stop distrusting the Doctor so quickly at the start of Part Four? Because it's the start of Part Four and we need that conflict resolved. And so on.

It's not subtle and it's not especially well done. It feels like it could go all-in on a b-movie vibe: we're one step away from someone crying, "But the wasps, man! The wasps!" It holds back though, and that's to its real disadvantage. Perhaps it should have gone for straight pastiche instead of po-faced cliché? Perhaps that would have helped.

The most notable part of the story comes with the aforementioned Tarlos, a companion of the Second Doctor who was accidentally returned home years before he left and has had to hide out and bide his time: and the Doctor can remember nothing about him, because the Time Lords have wiped his memory.

The play desperately wants you to care why, even introducing a could-be-a-new-companion in the form of Solana to have the Doctor not take aboard as a result of the consequences of taking Tarlos (broken families, broken promises). The trouble is, I didn't care at all. Tarlos just isn't a very interesting or engaging character. He's a vaguely intriguing plot point but not one as exciting as the script wants you to think he is. Perhaps they were angling for a return visit, or a spin-off box set? He warrants neither.

Just as the script overstated his intrigue, so do many of the plot twists overstate their surprise. The shock reveal of what occurs when people go into comas isn't a shock reveal. The surprise of what Edwin sees on his video is not a surprise. This is how things play out from start to finish, and it makes for a dud.

There is a half-decent idea and premise in here with Tarlos but two years' work has not created a half-decent play. Instead, it makes for a slog and the biggest twist and shock was how long it took to arrive at this destination. A shame.


+ Colony Of Fear is OUT NOW, priced £14.99 (CD) / £12.99 (Download).

+ ORDER this title on Amazon!


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