Real Time reviewed

The first ever December Bonus was Real Time. Written and directed by Gary Russell this was a Sixth Doctor story with Evelyn as the companion. The story was produced in tandem with BBCi (as was Shada) and used to support a webcast. The story spans two discs totalling six short episodes with lots of interviews. The cast also includes comedians Lee and Herring with Yee Jee Tso playing a character named Doctor Goddard.

A lot of time has passed since this was released – how well does it stack up and is it still worth a listen?

The story

The product page tells us:

On a planet known only as Chronos, two scientific survey teams have vanished. Inexplicably. Without warning. But with just one clue supplied – a single screamed word: “Cybermen!”

The University they worked for has called in the Earth security forces who despatch a third team, a mix of military and scientific might, under the auspices of a University Administrator. If that kind of volatile grouping isn’t bad enough, three strangers have been added to the mix – a young hum expert in Cybermen and a mysterious traveller in space and time, the Doctor, along with his companion, Dr Evelyn Smythe.

But can they solve the riddle of the vanished survey teams before the Cybermen harness Chronos’ unique temporal gifts and rewrite the history of the galaxy?

There is also a bit of production history:

Real Time was originally broadcast as an animated web drama on the BBC’s Doctor Who website between 2 August and 6 September 2000. Despite being animated, the script and audio production were specifically designed so that story could be followed and understood perfectly as a purely audio production. This double-CD features the audio only version of Real Time but includes extra scenes not in the original broadcast.

The actual story brings to mind Sword of Orion and perhaps deliberately so [don’t forget the AudioVisuals version existed way before the Big Finish remake] and because of this some of the twists in the plot are less surprising than they might have been. The bulk of the story centres on an expedition into a mysterious pyramid on the planet Chronos, some military types and a time wave emitting portal. One by one the scientists vanish to re-appear after partial cyber conversions. Will anyone survive?

The storytelling

Although set out as a self-creating paradox story with a reasonable twist at the end most of the strength of this is in the horror of cyber-conversion. The tale tries to be clever but with the benefit of many years of Big Finish releases is nothing startling. The extras do give a fascinating insight both into Colin Baker and also the fact this was a big deal at the time: the first BBCi collaboration and the move to new recording technology. The on-disc CD extras interview which is now a Big Finish staple also makes an appearance here, possibly for the first time [again this was a regular thing Nick did on the AudioVisuals].

Although far from essential listening it is a decent enough story well told.

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