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Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who
The Dispossessed


Starring: Sylvester McCoy
Publisher: Big Finish Productions
RRP: £14.99 (CD), £12.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 78178 833 2 (CD)
Release Date: 31 October 2018

The Doctor, Ace and Mel are caught in a forever night. After crossing the threshold, a strange world awaits them. An army of tortured souls. A lift that leads to an alien landscape. An extraterrestrial warlord, left for dead, and willing to do anything to prolong his life… it’s all in a day’s work for the Doctor. But when his companions become victims of the desperate and powerful Arkallax, the Doctor will have to do battle in a psychic environment where he must make a difficult choice. Save his companions – or himself…

With its run-down tower block and talk of criminal behaviour that demands justice, this audio drama could have been called The Condemned, except that’s been done already– ten years ago, in fact. Also in common with the Sixth Doctor story The Condemned, the Doctor (this time the seventh one, played by Sylvester McCoy) runs into some plain-speaking Mancunians (Morgan Watkins as Ruck and Stirling Gallacher as Isobel), but there the similarity ends.

The Dispossessed has more in common with other Seventh Doctor stories, which is appropriate enough. Familiar McCoy-era tropes sampled by writer Mark Morris include, at the subtler end of the spectrum, a rubbish tip –  Ace (Sophie Aldred) wonders whether they have landed in Perivale, as they did in Survival. Then there’s the light-hearted alien transmogrified into human form, a la Delta and the Bannermen – Isobel acquires a regional accent in her borrowed guise and affectionately refers to her trusty robot as “Droney”. In what is more likely a coincidental commonality, a psychic barrier prevents escape by causing feelings of sickness, as in the New Adventures novel Nightshade. Mostly obviously, though, Mel (Bonnie Langford) lets out an almighty scream when she visits a dilapidated high-rise containing something “Hungry!” Very sensibly, the writer acknowledges the similarities to Paradise Towers in Mel’s dialogue.

Fortunately, The Dispossessed is no mere retread of Paradise Towers. In many ways, it’s a very different beast. For one thing, it has a present-day Earth setting. For another, the villain is far more sophisticated. In contrast to the bellowing Kroagnon, Arkallax (Nick Ellsworth) seems like a thoroughly pleasant chap when Ace and Mel first encounter him. Ellsworth’s performance reminded me of the urbane John Le Mesurier. He couldn’t possibly do anyone any harm, you might think… Wrong! As the truth of the matter emerges, Morris (who is known for his scary stories) places some horrific images in our heads, which would not seem out of place in a David Cronenberg film – such as a lift with gnashing teeth and a slurping tongue! And the ending is not as happy as you might expect…

Joe Kraemer’s incidental music also enters into the spirit of the McCoy era, by referencing some Keff McCulloch beats and a John Debney glissando – I only heard these in the programme itself and not in the 10 minute suite of isolated music at the end of Disc One. In a remarkable combination of subtle scoring and acting, there’s a moment towards the end of the third episode when you can almost hear Arkallax musing to himself in a way that does not bode well for the Doctor.

At the end of Disc Two, there are 12 minutes of interviews, the most memorable of which involve Sophie Aldred and Bonnie Langford, who clearly enjoy the number of scenes they share in this adventure (unusually, they do not get split up) and put on eerily convincing little girl voices between takes. Big Finish, please take note of this skill and commission a story in which a temporal mishap causes Ace and Mel to revert to childhood!


Richard McGinlay

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