Victoria and the Great Space Elevator

The Great Space Elevator by Jonathan Morris (directed by Nigel Fairs) is a Second Doctor Companion Chronicle for Victoria Waterfield as played by Deborah Watling. It being a Companion Chronicle there is a second actor, this being Helen Goldwyn playing Security Officer Tara Kerley.

I picked this up in a sale vaguely aware that it was popular with some people on the Big Finish forums. All well and good, but how did I react to it? If everyone’s in let’s shut the doors, push the button and hold on tight…

The Story

The Big Finish product page gives the following synopsis:

A new adventure with the Second Doctor as told by his companion, Victoria Waterfield.

The Great Space Elevator is a marvel of human engineering; a transit tube stretching from the equator up to a space station held in geosynchronous orbit.

When the TARDIS lands in Sumatra in the future, the Second Doctor, Jamie and Victoria are captured by guards just as the station loses power. Together with Security Officer Tara Kerley, the three travellers take a one-way trip on the elevator to fix the problem, and find themselves confronted by a powerful alien force that threatens to wreak chaos on Earth…

We start with a reminiscing Victoria (now a grandmother) and move to a tale of then the TARDIS crew landed in Sumatra home to the Great Space Elevator – a carbon nano-tube line reaching to a space station which is itself used for weather control and hovers in geosynchronous orbit.

Arrested by Tara Kerley, the Doctor takes over when the space station reports a problem following a magnetic storm. The Doctor, Victoria, Jamie and Tara travel to the station and we get lots of scenery then a comedy moment when Jamie sets off the foam fire-suppressant system leaving everyone drenched.

We then get an adventure on the station featuring static electricity, weather control used to threaten the Earth, possession and lots of A-level Physics (more later). Tara gets possessed, a storm is created which will send electricity up the fibre to super charge the aliens and the day is saved by Victoria triggering another foam drenching to short out the possession and earth the aliens away.

Some of the electric creature(s) escapes down the carbon tube and the Doctor has to call ahead to get the tube itself earthed and win the day! Everything being resolved the TARDIS crew make their way off stage as Victoria mulls over the fact that they never stay to get congratulated.

The Production

Having just listened to Vienna and The Auntie Matter I didn’t spot that this was a Jonathan Morris tale – this is from 2008 so he has had several years to develop the rich, playful style we have been treated to recently. The imagery of the elevator is great and brought back memories of some 70s sci-fi novels (Arthur C Clarke springs to mind). I didn’t like the science in the story and pick on that later on.

The sound annoyed me a couple of times – the sound designers put a static electric sound on a few tracks to indicate the aliens – unfortunately I was a bit slow and thought there was a problem with the recording or my headphones until I twigged what was happening.

The Science Part

Sadly for me I remember (some of) my A-level Physics and got annoyed at several mistakes:

  • Static electricity and magnetism: The Doctor sticks a spoon to the head of various people to show they are effected by static electricity. NO. Static electricity does not have a magnetic field
  • The fire suppressant: I work a lot in DataCentres. You don’t have a fire suppressant that conducts electricity and thus destroys all the equipment in the control room on a space station
  • The speed of light: I would think an escaping electric creature moving down a conductor might move near the speed of light. I don’t see that the fairly slow means of wait a bit, call the earth then ‘earth the cable’ would be quick enough to beat the alien.
Some of the other use of insulators / conductors / Faraday cages didn’t quite convince me either, though I was annoyed by then.

The cable physics was pretty good though, however the cable would probably be earthed in the first place!

Overall

The plot tries to make the most of Victoria and bring her to the fore as an heroic figure, unlike how she often got played on TV. This works by pushing Jamie to the background and leaves The Doctor very recognisable as the Troughton character. Unusually for a Companion Chronicle the extra character Tara does very little and I wonder whether or not she overlooked as the story had slightly too many parts – Deborah also does various space station crew including one who was hiding from the alien invaders.

Along with the dodgy science I found this didn’t work for me even though it does capture the feel of the Second Doctor era well and is very Seeds of Death in style (and plot with the weather control and foam).

I may be in the minority – did you like this? Let me know!

 

Tony, February 2013

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