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Audio Book Review
The Doctor doesn’t normally need money, but when the TARDIS is immobilised and a parking fine has to be paid, a loan from a bank in the sky seems to be the solution to his problem. Then a group of Selachians arrive, and the Doctor and his companions find themselves as hostages in the middle of a heist. Death seems an absolute certainty - but the Doctor, Jamie, Polly and Ben have outwitted death before...
Last year, the Companion Chronicle The Forbidden Time was narrated by Anneke Wills as Polly with assistance from Frazer Hines as Jamie. Now the favour is returned: Hines is the primary reader of The Selachian Gambit, and he is supported by Wills. I think the combination works better this time, because Wills gets more to do than Hines did in The Forbidden Time, narrating entire scenes when Polly is separated from Jamie. Hines’s impersonation of Patrick Troughton’s Doctor is well known to listeners by now, but both he and Wills also demonstrate respectable imitations of Michael Craze as the Cockney Ben (and it helps that Steve Lyons has written such characteristic phrases as “did you clock that sparkler?” “you pranny!” and “you tartan twerp!”) so at times it feels as though the entire team is together again, rather than just half of them.
The decidedly comedic tone of the story fits right into Season 4, matching the lighter moments of The Highlanders, The Underwater Menace, The Macra Terror and even The Moonbase. As in several television stories, Polly puts the kettle on, but this isn’t just an in-joke about ’60s sexism - her move to the kitchen is vital to the plot. As in The Moonbase, Ben displays considerable scientific knowledge, and he and Polly improvise a chemical weapon to use against their foes.
The foes in question are, as you’ve guessed from the title, the Selachians, shark-like creatures that have appeared in The Architects of History and two previous novels by Lyons. Polly and Ben have in fact faced the Selachians before, in the first of those novels, The Murder Game. However, because that book is out of print and Big Finish listeners might not be familiar with it, the narrative remains neutral on the matter. Therefore, if you are not au fait with these creatures, you can think of them not as old enemies or as continuity references but as the typically Troughton-era monsters that they are. This time their bubbling voices are provided by an unrecognisable Hines, adding to the illusion of there being a much larger cast than there actually is.
The Selachian Gambit is tremendous fun, at a price that won’t break the bank.