Eddie Robson wrote I.D. and Urgent Calls the two stories that make up the 94th release in the main range. There was a spate of releases made up of a three-part and a one-part story and this is another. I personally believe the three-part shape doesn’t always work for Doctor Who – how would the Sixth Doctor make out with this release?
The product page tells us:
In the 32nd Century, the Doctor finds himself on a planet piled high with discarded computer technology. Picking over these remains are an army of Scandroids, a collection of unsavoury, illegal Data Pirates and a team of researchers from the mysterious Lonway Clinic. This is a world of organic-digital transfer and ‘personality surgery’ which the Doctor finds disturbing enough, until something far more deadly starts to emerge.
This is a mixture of stock characters, robots with messages for people, the idea of programming brains, storing personalities and identity theft. It never settles down between being story of base under siege or possession. One of the core ideas is that a brain can be re-programmed from back-up or by software. A great evil wants to be reborn meanwhile everyone else is money grabbing and selfish.
The same product page also tells us:
Earth, 1974. An innocent phone call. Okay, it was a wrong number, but there can’t be any harm in that. Can there?
The story is told as a sequence of telephone calls all placed by mistake. Our point of view is that of Lauren a young woman whose life the Doctor saves. Over the course of further wrong number calls Lauren develops a fondness for the Doctor and learns of his alien nature. All the action happens off-screen instead we focus just on a few short exchanges.
I found I.D. deeply disappointing. Ignoring the fact that the plot was thinned out to cover three discs when it struggled to fill two the main crime this story commits is throwing away Gyles Brandreth (Doctor Marriott) whose voice and presence really make the first two discs. The nascent romance between two other characters is well done but really the story is just a long sequence of encounters with scandroids and some pontificating about unnecessary waste and identity theft. For me this is not Eddie Robson’s strongest work. Had it focussed on one or two threads it might have worked far better.
Urgent Calls on the other hand is magnificent and shows just how to tell a powerful simple story. This is something I could easily imagine being adapted for the TV when the show needs an episode with minimal presence from the Doctor.
Overall then a very mixed bag. Your thoughts?