Requiem for the Rocket Men reviewed

Requiem for the rocket menJohn Dorney returned to his creation, The Rocket Men, in the March 2015 Fourth Doctor story Requiem for the Rocket Men. If the thought of bringing a foe from the First Doctor Companion Chronicles to meet the Fourth Doctor and Leela isn’t enough, the story throws in the Geoffrey Beevers Master as well!

Can a single story with this much content work in just one disc? Find out…

The story

First the Big Finish synopsis:

The Asteroid – notorious hideaway of the piratical Rocket Men. Hewn out of rock, surrounded by force-fields and hidden in the depths of the Fairhead Cluster, their base is undetectable, unescapable and impregnable.

In need of allies, the Master has arranged to meet with Shandar, King of the Rocket Men. But the mercenaries have captured themselves a very special prisoner – his oldest enemy, the Doctor.

What cunning scheme is the Doctor planning? How does it connect with Shandar’s new robotic pet? And just what has happened to Leela? The Master will have to work the answers out if he wants to leave the asteroid… alive…

This is an entertaining story with lots of twists and deceptions, some of which are more obvious to the listener than the participants. At first the Rocket Men element is downplayed, but soon takes centre stage. There is plenty here for the large number of characters and Leela has her own character development as she meets and befriends a Rocket Man named Marhsall (Damian Lynch). The Doctor also gets some action in the traditional Rocket Men space combat scene – a core ingredient of the previous two stories (Rocket Men and Return of the Rocket Men).

The plot mixes the long standing desire for revenge by the Rocket Men on the Doctor (have they run into him in other, as yet unreleased, stories?) and the Master’s usual desire for puppets to exploit. What lifts this story is how, as it unfolds, many participants have their own goals, the Doctor gains a (decisive?) victory over the Rocket Man and Leela leaves the TARDIS! The final surprise is this is part one of a two-part story: interesting both Matt Fitton script edited this and the two writers swapped roles for the follow up story, Death Match.

The storytelling

[pullquote]the Rocket Men were diluted compared to past releases[/pullquote]

The biggest take-away from this story is how much the Fourth Doctor was like the Seventh. He schemed, lay traps, pulled tricks and acted in an unusual way for him. I think the Rocket Men were diluted compared to past releases, and would have liked more sense of other, untold, adventures between the previous two and this one. They also seemed slightly less threatening, a bit like simple pirates at times and took a while to get going. The whole Master vs Doctor dynamic was great, K9 had lots of amusing ‘Doctor, master’ moments and I really enjoyed listening as the Master’s plans unwound while the Doctor ran rings around him.

Adding the character of Marshall for Leela is a very good idea (more next month) and while I have some gripes, I really like this story. A good effort all round!

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