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30 March 2012

Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Written By: Eddie Robson

RRP: £8.99

Release Date: 31st March 2012

Reviewed by: Matthew Davis for Doctor Who Online

Review Posted: 30th March 2012

UNIT have recovered a damaged Alien computer, and for once they do not require The Doctor’s help. Preferring to keep their scientific advisor in the dark, they call in Dr Elizabeth Shaw, to oversee the repair of this alien technology. All is not what it seems however as the soldiers who had been guarding the computer have vanished without a trace.

To help her in the repairs UNIT have sent to Liz a computer expert by the name of Sergeant Andrew Childs. As repairs begin it is not long before Liz and Sergeant Childs find themselves inside the computer.

Trapped and desperate to escape, Liz and Childs begin to traverse the inner workings of the computer. But why are they finding the vanished soldiers dead and just what is stalking them through the mainframe? The Doctor is not around to save the day this time, so Liz must find her own way out but can the increasingly evasive Childs be trusted?

Liz Shaw, one of the shortest lived companions in the history of Doctor Who, but despite this has made a rather strong impact in the hearts of many fans. So it seems only fitting that Big Finish are determined to give this Companion the life she should have had on screen and have pulled out this rather fun and thoughtful Companion Chronicle.

What is at first striking about Binary is the decision to make this release a full cast audio drama rather than a talking book. This is rare for the Companion Chronicles, one of the last releases to get this treatment was the superb Solitaire, but the effect really helps this story as it is nice to hear Caroline John reacting to another actor instead of creating the parts herself.

The story of Binary is a good one. It is not brilliant or particularly striking but it is entertaining. The concept of being trapped in a computer is not a new one, but there is enough ideas running throughout the story to help it elevate past more than a mere run around story. One of most interesting parts of Binary is the idea of a computer producing an organic life form to fix faults within it. Although this does generate a stereotypical foe to chase Liz around a corridor, the concept is so highly original you can forgive the short comings of its ultimate execution.

The cast all work well together, particularly Caroline John. John portrays Liz as a woman struggling to make something of herself in a man’s world, and her bitterness towards the sexism and the patronising attitude of The Doctor (who appears in this story thanks to messages on a screen) really add depth to Liz’s character.

Joe Coen as Seargent Childs is excellent in the role and although the revelation of the true nature of his character is at times rather obvious. Coen, though, brings enough charm and subtle manipulation to the part to make any listener second guess his character’s motives.

The full cast play format is an excellent device for the Companion Chronicles as a series and I for one would like to see Big Finish exploring the possibilities of this direction with future releases in the range.

Binary is an entertaining and intriguing addition to the Companion Chronicles, with some very good performances and for anyone jumping on board is a lovely introduction to a sadly short lived TV companion.

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