The first main range trilogy of 2013 gave us the welcome return of Miss Melanie Bush as played by Bonnie Langford. Teamed up with the Sixth Doctor we were presented with a set of three stories that at first glance appear to be a triple rather than a trilogy with a linking arc. That hasn’t stopped speculation that we might get treated to a surprise return from Sabalom Glitz (we hope!). Back to the facts – how were the stories…
The Wrong Doctors by Matt Fitton: in style this is a blend of the light humour shown in A Most Excellent Match with the poignant story telling we were treated to in Black & White. In this story we are given an answer to ‘what happens after Trial of a Timelord?’, avoid clashing with a novel that does the first meeting of the Sixth Doctor and Mel, visit Pease Pottage, escape a pocket dimension, have two Mels, two Doctors and lots of fun. If that wasn’t enough we have dinosaurs and the most despicable profession in the galaxy (business consultants).
Matt does a good job of sliding a complex timey-wimey story into a gap in the canon and I like the way he differentiates versions of the same character (Mel and mini-Mel made me chuckle, and the blue-coat / rainbow coat device for Sixie). Amongst the fun there is a pocket universe / spirits of the dead tale and lots of humour. For me, overall, I was concentrating a lot on the flow of the story and found the humour got in the way towards the end. I am a business consultant by trade so that may be me!
Spaceport Fear by William Gallager: this appears to be a classic base under siege story set on a spaceport which is under continual bombardment by unidentified aliens. The computers have diverted all power to force fields leaving little left for lighting or any other services. Arrivals are rare and of course the appearance of Mel and the Doctor is the catalyst for change.
Where this story works well is that the tension is mostly drawn from the conflicts between two tribes – those being the business class and standard class passengers. William Gallagher inverts the story motif (whatever that means) and this is in fact almost a story that could be set on a sub-light colony ship and we have half-memories of the past informing the current culture. What this means is that there is a lot of humour taking the mickey out of the conventions of airports and air travel.
The two tribes are each led by an elder who is inevitable the same person and the root cause of the problems. We also have a lot of symmetry between characters in each tribe which acts as a nice story vehicle. Overall this was a nicely claustrophobic well made story
The Seeds of War by Matt Fitton and Nick Briggs: definitely a tale of four parts for me. Each is deliberately written to be in a different setting much in the style of some of the original Hartnell stories (or even the old Saturday morning cinema Flash Gordon stories). The original concept was by Nick Briggs with Matt Fitton bringing it to life.
This story introduces a new enemy – the Eminence and its foot soldiers the Infinite Warriors. In an interesting twist these are actually known to the Sixth Doctor as they will be introduced (to us) in a Fourth Doctor story due in 2014 (Destroy the Infinite).
The first two parts were excellent – the first concentrates on the story of the Great Tower of Kalsos which is being destroyed as the TARDIS arrives. We learn of the end of war between the Eminence and humanity which has just finished with humanity apparently the victor. The second part is set in space on the journey home and is the normal ‘Doctor and Companion incarcerated as spies’ story mixed with ‘starving rebels raid the ship for food.’
Across all this we slowly realise something is not right with the Doctor and that famine is about to undermine human civilisation.
Part 3 is all about meeting the wider survivors of the war, the Teveler family (one, a soldier named Barlow Teveler, is consistent across all episodes) including a scientist who is struggling to produce viable seeds to grow the food the colonies need. Part 4 is all about the trip to Earth, getting seeds from a seed bank and resolving the threat of the Eminence.
There is a lot of great imagery, the Infinite Warriors are well realised thought I felt overall the story fragmented a bit in the later parts. The scientist Helgert dies and is left unburied, a spaceship crashes conveniently to allow our heroes to get to Earth (and it is a setup in the plot but not really treated as anything except coincidence) and the ending seemed to peter out. Overall a good story but I did find it uneven.
A solid set of three stories though not a trilogy in the sense of others that have had an arc. The three stories are not set sequentially and it is refreshing to not have to have a grand plan for each set of three stories.
I was very pleased to have Bonnie back as Mel and as every you couldn’t tell that the actors hadn’t worked together for years. A rock solid start to 2013.
What did you think? What was your favourite story of the three? Let me know!