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Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who


Starring: Paul McGann
Big Finish Productions
RRP: £10.99 (CD), £8.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 84435 393 4
Available 30 March 2009

The Doctor has fallen to his death while battling with Morbius on the planet Karn. His grief-stricken companion, Lucie Miller, has been returned by the Time Lords to her former life on Earth. Then, one night, an alien visitor arrives at her front door - and shoots her. Could it be that Lucie’s days with the Doctor are not over after all? She will find the answer to that question only on the planet Orbis, a watery world where all forms of life are facing violent extinction...

It has been many months since we last heard from the Eighth Doctor (Paul McGann) and Lucie Miller (Sheridan Smith). For the character of Lucie, it’s been about that long since she last saw her friend, who apparently fell to his death (yeah, right) at the end of The Vengeance of Morbius. Orbis picks up right where the coda to that story left off, with the Headhunter (Katarina Olsson) turning up literally on Lucie’s doorstep. If you haven’t heard the Sisters of the Flame / The Vengeance of Morbius storyline or have forgotten some of the details, this CD’s sleeve notes will bring you up to speed, but it’s worth listening or re-listening to those episodes beforehand.

Though it has been months for us and Lucie, the interlude has been much, much longer for the Doctor - 600 years, in fact. The length of this period, plus the revelation that the Eighth Doctor is experiencing some memory problems (again), invites comparison with the “trapped on Earth” arc of the BBC’s Eighth Doctor novels during 2000-1. As was the case back then, the Time Lord’s personality has undergone a change, acquiring a darker, meaner edge. He has spent the intervening centuries stranded on Orbis with the native species of jellyfish-like creatures, and he’s not overly keen to leave them. He doesn’t feel stranded; he has settled down. In the interviews at the end of the CD, the writers (Alan Barnes and Nicholas Briggs) liken the Doctor in Orbis to a retired sheriff in a Western, a man reluctantly forced to don his badge and gun-belt and “do what he’s gotta do” once again.

The regulars are supported by Laura Solon, who is delightful as the eager young jellyfish Selta, and Andrew Sachs, who enjoys hamming up his role as the villain of the piece, the hermaphroditic oyster-like Crassostrea. There is also fun to be had as the writers throw various aspects of shellfish lifestyle and biology into the dialogue and plot.

Unlike previous Eighth Doctor and Lucie adventures, the episode duration is 2 x 25 minutes per release (rather than 1 x 50 minutes). The cliffhanger at the end of Part One is very well crafted indeed.

If you’re already a fan of these characters, then of course you’ll want to listen to Orbis. And if you’re a newbie, it’s worth dipping your toes in.


Richard McGinlay

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