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Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who
Black and White


Starring: Sylvester McCoy
Big Finish Productions
RRP: £14.99 (CD), £12.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 84435 944 8
Available 31 August 2012

The search for the Doctor continues. The black TARDIS brings Ace and Lysandra to the land of the Danes, where a young warrior seeks to rid the kingdom of Hrothgar from a cruel and terrifying demon. The brave young warrior is called Beowulf, and the monster is Grendel - or so his name will one day be written. However, what is set down in black and white can sometimes be very far from the truth, as the Doctor knows - and as Hex and Sally, travelling in the white TARDIS, are about to discover...


Don’t read this review unless you have already heard the previous release, Protect and Survive! This review is not especially revelatory about the events of Black and White, but because this story pays off from the outset on plot developments that have been gradually simmering over several previous Seventh Doctor releases, it is impossible to discuss Black and White without touching upon them.

The adventure picks up right where Protect and Survive left off. The opening episode is mostly spent explaining how the two unexpected occupants of the black TARDIS came to be there. Ace does not initially get on with Captain Lysandra Aristedes (Maggie O’Neill) - owing to the officer’s links to the sinister Forge - or with her associate Private Sally Morgan (Amy Pemberton), who Ace amusingly nicknames “Sergeant Barbie” and “Private Benjamin”. However, Hex takes a shine to the young blonde, which only increases Ace’s irritation! The splitting up of the four companions into two teams - Ace and Lysandra, Hex and Sally - adds a refreshing new dynamic to the series, which would be good to hear more of.

The Seventh Doctor is still conspicuous by his absence, though he appears in several short flashback scenes, including a clip from the end of House of Blue Fire, in which Sally first boarded the black TARDIS. Other, newly recorded, flashbacks include the Doctor’s creation and test piloting of the black TARDIS, and his “recruitment” of Lysandra. These snippets of his travels with Sally and Lysandra are extremely tantalising, and once again I have to say that I would like to hear more (at least one upcoming Companion Chronicle, entitled Project: Nirvana, is set to explore this “era”).

The trouble is that all this fascinating interaction with the companions and their TARDISes overshadows the Beowulf / Grendel elements of Matt Fitton’s script, which is supposedly intended to be the main plot. On its own, this strand - which is not so much a pseudo-historical as a mythological tale, like The Myth Makers - could have been entertaining enough. It has interesting things to say about how legends are made, which ties in well with the trust issues currently being experienced by the Seventh Doctor’s companions. However, while listening to it, I often found myself waiting for the next black or white TARDIS bit to come along!

Furthermore, Fitton’s multiple timeline approach, in particular the cliffhanger ending to the first disc (of two), bears comparison to The Angel of Scutari, while the character of Garundel (Stuart Milligan), though often amusing, is occasionally over the top. The latter’s accent, which has been variously compared to the Hooded Claw from The Perils of Penelope Pitstop and Roger the alien from American Dad!, also sits rather oddly in a period setting several centuries before there was such a thing as an American accent (OK, neither was there any such thing as a British accent as we currently know it, but you get the point). TARDIS translator playing up again?

Despite its faults, Black and White is a remarkable achievement, being the second consecutive “Doctor-lite” story in this trilogy. That’s eight episodes in a row with very little Doctor in them - something that the television Who has never dared to attempt. The continued absence of the Time Lord does not try the listener’s patience, but rather teases us in an entertaining way, leaving us gagging for the next release, Gods and Monsters...

That’s my opinion in black and white - well, grey and black on this website.


Richard McGinlay

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