A Life of Crime reviewed

A Life of CrimeThe latest jumping-on point for fans is the new Seventh Doctor trilogy. Matt Fitton gives us A Life of Crime with two companions – Ace and Mel. Set after Dragonfire much time has passed for both companions when the TARDIS arrives Ricosta.

Cue much skulduggery and deception!

The story

The Big Finish synopsis has this to say:

Come to Ricosta! Tropical climate, untouched beaches, fabulous cuisine… and no extradition treaties. The perfect retirement planet for a certain type of ‘business person’ – such as Ms Melanie Bush, formerly the co-owner of the Iceworld emporium, now on the run from her former criminal associate’s criminal associates…

Some other former associates of Ms Bush are abroad in this space Costa del Crime, however. Not long ago, the time and space traveller known as the Doctor arrived here, alongside his sometimes-criminal associate, the reformed juvenile offender Ace. But now the Doctor’s gone missing – and Melanie Bush is about to learn that on the planet Ricosta, the wages of sin… are death.

Of course there’s a lot more to it as Matt Fitton unfolds a tale of villainous Lofty Lonnigan (Des McAleer), the dubious Nathan Later (Stephen Hagan) and the mysterious Gloria (Ginny Holder). Bad things have happened to the Doctor and as one thread of the story explores the dark (aren’t they all!) underbelly of Ricosta, both Ace and Mel are victims of multiple attempts at deception. As listeners we have a fair sense of the art of the possible, but even with that there is joy in following Ace and Mel as they explore some major twists in the story.

The Doctor himself gets to interact with some wonderful tentacled aliens (the Sperevores) and cue Harry Myers and John Banks. John also takes on the role of Mayor, the furry, badger-like alien on the cover. John excels himself and the Mayor is entirely despicable, just as it should be.

The front of stage plot of Gloria and her relation to the Doctor is a larger than life piece of window dressing; the real story is  about growth and trust. Mel is clearly older and has survived her time with Sabalom Glitz only to be mis-judged. Matt Fitton’s writing allows us to think Mel has moved from goody-two-shoes to villain; the real story is far more satisfying. There is also a twist near the end and in Gloria the makings of a foe deserving a return match with the Doctor. All great stuff.

The storytelling

Every part here had merits, and one of two odd corners. As to the passage of time since Dragonfire, my thoughts are:

  • Mel: I had hope much more time might have passed than seems to have. It feels like maybe 12-24 months have elapsed, and while she is older and wiser, it would have been fun were she much older still
  • Ace: I struggle to know how old Ace is meant to be story to story. Here she feels close to the exuberant youth of the 1980s TV episodes, and yet talks in terms of vast periods of time having gone by. A much older more rounded Ace would be satisfying. One day, one day!

Ken Bentley is back in the Director’s chair and is his usual impeccable self. Great music, fun cover — what’s not to like!

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