Doctor Who
Time Works

Starring: Paul McGann
Big Finish Productions
RRP: 14.99
ISBN 1 84435 168 8
Available 19 March 2006

The TARDIS lands in between times, in a time where there is no time, on a world where people live in the shadow of the Clock Tower. The people work hard, turning their hands for every tick and every tock of their lives. But they all wind down in the end, and that is when the Time Keepers come for them - when their time is up...

Following the frivolity of Other Lives, the Eighth Doctor's audio adventures return to the kind of surreal realm that would not have seemed out of place in the Divergent Universe story arc of recent years. However, there's one crucial difference here. In the Divergent Universe there was no time, whereas in this story time is very much of the essence.

When the Doctor (Paul McGann), Charley (India Fisher) and C'rizz (Conrad Westmaas) arrive in the land of Industry, the populace seem to be frozen in time. When the travellers later emerge from "between the tick and the tock" and into the time-stream of the locals, they realise that every waking second of these people's lives is being strictly scheduled and monitored by the so-called Time Keepers in their Clock Tower. In this world, retirement is not something to look forward to - it is a euphemism for death, as are "cutbacks" and "downsizing".

The "cutbacks" are carried out by sinister clockwork men - though writer Steve Lyons is at pains to make clear, courtesy of a description provided by the shopkeeper Vannet (Beth Vyse), that these creatures are not connected with the clock-faced people of the BBC Eighth Doctor novel Anachrophobia. Nor are they anything to do with The Clockwise Man.

Anyone who's ever lived in fear of a faceless, inscrutable, time-obsessed boss (and I don't mean Scaroth from City of Death) will realise what Lyons is metaphorically driving at with this story. Maintaining quotas and punctuality are all very well, but taken to extremes such practices become dehumanising, not to mention the fact that accounting for every minute of the working day is in itself an unproductive use of one's time.

Appropriately, the writer plays around a bit (not too much) with the chronology of his narrative. Each episode is interspersed by comments from a different "narrator" - comments that prove to be part of a conversation that takes place later on in that episode.

Lyons should perhaps have made C'rizz a little less familiar with the concepts of time. After all, despite his recent experiences in the TARDIS, he comes from a universe where there is no time, yet the only hint of this here is when he doesn't know a wristwatch is called.

Apart from that, though, on the whole this story works and is well worth your time.

Richard McGinlay