The April Destiny of the Doctor story Babblesphere saw Lalla Ward reprise the role of Romana in a Jonathan Morris Fourth Doctor story that also featured Roger Parrott as Aurelius. So far the Destiny of the Doctor series been a success in my view, particularly given the price to download the whole series of 11 stories (Get it while it’s hot); how well did this month’s offering stack up?
From the Big Finish product page we learn:
The violent, volcanic world of Hephastos is home to a colony of composers, painters, authors and poets, all striving to create the greatest works of art the universe has ever seen. But in pursuit of their goal, artistic collaboration has been taken a stage too far…
When the Doctor and Romana arrive, they discover the colonists have neglected their well-being and their once beautiful habitat, which has now succumbed to decay, and they are enslaved to the Babble network which occupies their every waking moment. Every thought, however trivial or insignificant, is shared with everyone else and privacy is now a crime.
The colonists are being killed and the Doctor and Romana begin to suspect that a malevolent intelligence is at work. With time running out, the two time travellers race to discover the truth before they too are absorbed into the endless trivia of the Babblesphere…
The story starts with the death of an inhabitant of Hephastos followed by the arrival of the TARDIS. Romana and the Doctor observe that the beautiful structure of the colony (described as the Palace of Versailles in a snow globe) is in a state of decay then are arrested by chandelier shaped robots for what seems to be murder. Romana is locked in a cell with a local named Aurelius while the Doctor is taken away for questioning.
Aurelius explains that the colony has moved its attention to the virtual world of the Babblesphere (think twitter on steroids) and having a brain implant has become compulsory Aurelius’s crime is that his implant is defective meaning he is committing the sin of having private thoughts. Romana and Aurelius are rescued by a group of what turn out to be older women prone to gossip and taken to a lair in the attic. From there Romana plans a mission to rescue the Doctor then destroy the computer at the heart of the Babblesphere.
Needless to say the Doctor and Romana get sucked into the Babblesphere and need to fight it from the inside! Inevitably all ends well, the colonists are free and we get the obligatory Eleventh Doctor moment setting up the link to the overall arc.
From Big Finish Day 3 (see my Destiny of the Doctor notes) we know that these are all designed to be independent and accessible by casual listeners. This story easily does that; it doesn’t trip over any canon (not that Jonathan would) nor does it need you to know much about the specific characters. What it also does well is feel like a Douglas Adams script, much as I was hoping it would. From the incidental music to the rather mad setting and characters it felt authentic. Yes, the core ‘twitter takes over the world’ idea may have been contemporary but is easily one that I can imagine Douglas Adams buying into.
Lalla Ward is also excellent at both delivery of her lines and providing a contrasting voice for the narrative – it is only when you hear the best performers you realise how well this can be done. Listen to way Lalla pronounces the word ‘long’ near the beginning if you want to know what I mean.
Roger Parrott (who has appeared in Graceless, main range and Gallifrey releases) also does well as Aurelius.
Some niggles – the IT as presented near the end is rather unexplained (in the Douglas Adams tradition of don’t over justify) and I have some other geeky qualms about some of the minor points. Overall though this is fun and well worth listening to.
Another hit for the Destiny of the Doctor range competently written and performed as we have come to expect from those involved. We see the pieces of the overall arc being put into place but still have no idea what the picture is on the lid of the jigsaw puzzle box.
I enjoyed it, what did you think? Did it bubble along nicely or was it just babble? Let me know!
Tony, April 2013