Death’s Deal reviewed

Deaths DealThe Tenth Doctor release in the Destiny of the Doctor range was Death’s Deal by Darren Jones. Narrated by Catherine Tate, reprising her role as Donna Noble, and also featuring Duncan Wisbey as Krux / Erskine, the synopsis promises an action packed adventure.

Will this live up to last month’s Night of the Whisper (reviewed here)? How will Catherine Tate perform on audio?

Only listening will tell…

The Story

As I said the synopsis (from the Big Finish page) is action packed:

Responding to multiple maydays, the TARDIS lands on the planet of Death’s Deal, but the distress calls are old, the final echoes of terrified lost souls. This is an exotic world of lethal creatures, nicknamed ‘The Deadliest Planet in the Galaxy’, and only the brave, foolhardy or greedy would ever dare to visit.

Finding themselves stranded among a motley bunch of space-tourists, the Doctor and Donna must lead a struggle for survival against the frenzied wildlife, as they slowly realise that other members of the group have very different agendas.

And soon the Doctor learns of an even bigger threat hiding on Death’s Deal. Somewhere deep below the surface, is something that must never be unearthed.
Time is running out, and only an impossible survivor holds the key…

The story takes a moment to get going by beginning on the TARDIS and introducing the planet of Death’s Deal by the scale of the number of unanswered distress calls that the Doctor has picked up. They go to the planet and at first things aren’t too threatening and they are even met by a party of thrill seeking tourists. Needless to say moments later massive ferocious work-like creatures appear and both swallow the TARDIS and destroy the TARDIS ship.

The Doctor and Donna join up with the survivors including a mollusc-like alien (Krux), a young space-pirate (Tag Groogan[?]) and ‘not his girlfriend’ (Lyric) and residual members of the tour company. The Doctor follows a signal to a wreck in which they collect the inevitable message from the Eleventh Doctor; they must make sure that deadly crystals under the planet’s surface aren’t found and make sure that Erskine survives. This all means heading deeper into the coral and the lairs of ravenous monsters.

Donna and Krux get split up and look for the TARDIS underground; they face many challenges including being consumed by a monster tunnelling worm. The Doctor searches for a survivor from the wreck in the company of Groogan and Lyric (the others have died horribly by now). They find the survivor, Erskine, and learn that he has been sacrificing other survivors and has effectively gone mad.

All ends mostly well – Groogan dies horribly and Erskine dies! Fortunately Lyric is his daughter and an Erskine as well!

The Storyteling

I needed a few scenes to get the sense of Catherine Tate as narrator and as Donna. Her presentation is very formal when narrating and almost jarred with the characters. Her Groogan was not unlike her angry school-girl Lauren and Lyric was also played by her. Her Doctor impressions were fine and carried by the spot on writing of Darren Jones.

The whole piece sounded entirely authentic and I got a sense that Catherine Tate has enjoyed being Donna again (and this is backed up by various new items I have read).

Duncan Wisbey as Krux the mollusc-like alien was very good and his character had more to do than other secondary characters in this series.

For me the prose was the beauty of the story: yes massive worms shooting out of the ground were a bit obvious given the name of the planet but there was fantastic narrative, particularly around horrible deaths!

The stand-out scene is Donna having to hide inside Krux’s carapace (he opened his shell for her to shelter in) and then they were eating by a monster worm and passed through its digestive tract. A very powerful and well told scene.

Unlike last month’s Night of the Whisper I didn’t pause and consider ‘well done Big Finish doing the new Doctors’ but just sat and enjoyed it. That tells you how good it was!

You may also wish to look at Darren Jones’s blog Darren Scribbled for some more details and Doc Oho’s review of this story (one of the best reviews I have read).

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