Death Match reviewed

death_match_coverDeath Match, by Matt Fitton, is the latest Fourth Doctor Adventure and is the sequel to John Dorney’s Requiem for the Rocketmen (John script edited this, return the favour as Matt edited his story!). It continues with Leela having left the TARDIS then almost at once taken prisoner by the Master. The Doctor and K9 find themselves on the TARDIS without their familiar friend…

The story

The synopsis from the Big Finish: Death Match tries to hide the obvious:

The Death-Match is under new management. The Hunt Master’s Champion has been installed. All regular players are welcomed back to the Pursuit Lounge to observe the contest in luxurious surroundings. Privacy is assured. For this reason we ask our elite guests to abide by the strict security protocols. Please note, the house has no limits.

In the Gallery, your combatants can be observed on the orbiting Quarry Station. A purpose-built environment filled with deadly traps and hidden dangers. Prizes are offered for every kill, with bonuses for rogue elements. Only an elite hunter can survive the End-Game. Do you have a worthy champion? Kill or be killed: the only rule of the Death-Match…

If ever a plot had Leela written all over it, this is that plot. What isn’t mentioned (even in the cast listing currently on display) is the continuity with the character Marshall (Damian Lynch) who Leela has taken under her wing. He has a major part to play in this story.

The setting is an obscure satellite hosting the Death Match. The Master has taken over and is using his new status to affect local events and gather an army (for a change). Leela is, of course, his unbeatable champion but only through cheating (what else?!) and the Doctor arrives to rescue her, stop the Master and generally right wrongs. This he all does by facing things head on, entering the Death Match himself (what did we expect) and playing some tricks on the Master before saving the day, as ever.

Leela’s relationship with Marshall develops but ends in tragedy, leaving her free, of course, to return to the TARDIS.

The storytelling

Matt gives us a lot to like with this story. Rather than play up to Leela the warrior, he sets her in context: yes she is a skilled huntress, but is not the greatest warrior ever in existence. She is the elite of the Death Match through cheating. While she can trap a foe and use weapons, she isn’t a super hero. This I like.

[pullquote]The emotional connection to Marshall is another winner[/pullquote]

The emotional connection to Marshall is another winner for me (Tom makes some cryptic comments in the extras) and is played very well. K9 contributes without being a magic wand, and the Doctor is back to normal, after the previous story when he was more than a little Seventh Doctor in style. The Master is solid, in fact it is all rather entertaining.

This pair of tales has been the surprise hit of the season so far, and it’s only April!

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