Review – Big Finish Doctor Who #27: “The One Doctor”

This is the next in line of my Big Finish Productions Doctor Who retro-reviews.

#27 – “The One Doctor”

From Big Finish’s site:

When the evil Skelloids launch an attack upon the seventeen worlds of the Generios system, its peace-loving inhabitants face total destruction.

So it’s fortunate that the famous traveller in time and space known only as the Doctor is in the area, and doubly lucky that, with the help of his pretty young assistant, Sally-Anne, he manages to defeat the deadly creatures and save the day.

But now it looks as though the Doctor’s luck has run out.

Who is the mysterious, curly-haired stranger who insists on causing trouble? What role does the feisty redhead Melanie play in his scheme? And what have they to do with the sinister alien cylinder approaching Generios?

One thing is certain: for the Doctor and Sally-Anne, there’s deadly danger ahead…

Written By: Gareth Roberts and Clayton Hickman

Directed By: Gary Russell


Colin Baker (The Doctor); Bonnie Langford (Melanie Bush); Christopher Biggins (Banto Zame); Clare Buckfield (Sally-Anne Stubbins); Matt Lucas (Cylinder / The Jelloid); Stephen Fewell (Councillor Potikol / Assembler 2); Nicholas Pegg (Citizen Sokkery / Mentos); Jane Goddard (The Questioner / Queen Elizabeth); Adam Buxton (Assembler 1); Mark Wright (Guard); Alistair Lock (Guard)

***minor spoilers ahead***

In last week’s review of “Primeval,” I pointed out that there’s little room for humor in a 5th Doctor story.  In a 6th Doctor story, humor is subjective, but in this case… prepare for one of the funniest and most absurd adventures in the entire Big Finish Doctor Who lineup.  And for me, one of the most memorable.  For a Time Lord who revels in the very idea of new worlds, new races, new challenges, and new levels of grandstanding, there is only one thing he fears more than Daleks, Cybermen, and all the other nasties out there combined: boredom.  This is exactly the nemesis he expects when he finds himself at “the vulgar end of time,” where everything’s been done and everyone lives in blissful mediocrity.

Or so he thinks.  After all, things can only be interesting when the Doctor learns an alien invasion has just been staved off by… the Doctor.

One of the classic setups in science fiction is the idea of facing off against the evil twin.  They didn’t do that here.  So does the 6th Doctor meet one of his other incarnations?  Not so much.  Meet Banto Zame, con artist extraordinaire and the Doctor Who answer to Star Trek‘s Harry Mudd.  Actually, I’ll think higher of Mudd.  His schemes didn’t require him to steal Kirk’s identity.  I won’t ruin the gags for you, but let’s just ask… what’s the most embarrassing thing a TARDIS could be made to look like that’s nearly the relative size and shape of a police box?  Let your imagination run wild and know that it only gets crazier from there.  And of course, Zame thinks the Doctor is a con artist like himself once a new alien menace pipes its booming voice across the skies demanding tribute.  After all, for a scam to be truly successful, the would-be marks need to see the alien threat, not just hear it.

The story itself is largely farce.  How could it be otherwise?  The cast and crew clearly had a lot of fun with this one.  Even the sound effects and music have a whimsical cartoon feel at times, and there are plenty of cheap shots to be had – the kind you won’t ordinarily find in a Doctor Who adventure.  Like the best cartoons, there is the direct smack in the face with the social commentary that’s even more relevant now than it was when this audio was first released.  I suppose that was bound to happen as we accelerate towards the vulgar end of time.

As an afterthought, I mention from time to time that some of the things the current TV series has pulled over the years seems genius to most, but reveal themselves to be copycat material to one who has dipped into Big Finish.  This is another one of those times.  Fans of the 9th Doctor will know what I’m talking about after listening to this one.  I find it ironic that the BBC should swipe one of the many ideas they’ve lifted from Big Finish from a story that deals with a knock-off.  Here’s a thought, BBC: instead of hiring hacks who mine Big Finish for these little gems, why not just canonize these audios and hire showrunners who can come up with something original and equally creative for TV?  For a change, maybe?  I know, it’s an insane I idea.  Forget I said anything…

Regardless, no matter which direction you approach it, “The One Doctor” is one of the most fun audios in the lineup.  The more you know about Doctor Who, the more little in-jokes you’ll get.  If all you know are the broad strokes, that’s more than enough to enjoy yourself.