Doctor Who

Starring: Sylvester McCoy
Big Finish Productions
RRP: 14.99
ISBN: 978 1 84435 198 5
Available 01 July 2007

Welcome to Valhalla, capital city of Callisto, Jupiter's premier moon, where anything and everything is up for sale. Whatever you want, it's here in Valhalla. All credit prints accepted. But Valhalla isn't quite what it says in the brochures, not since Earth granted independence and cut off the supplies. The former Doctor (FOR SALE - EXCELLENT CONDITION - SIX PREVIOUS OWNERS - ONLY 900 YEARS ON THE CLOCK) visits the Job Centre and finds power cuts, barcoded citizens and monthly riots (ALL BOOKABLE). And then there's the problem with the termites...

An abandoned colony world... A disposable figurehead leader who broadcasts futilely encouraging messages to his people... Am I talking about Vengeance on Varos? A world secretly controlled by deadly invertebrates... Or perhaps The Macra Terror? No, it's Valhalla, the latest Seventh Doctor audio adventure from Big Finish. It isn't the most original tale that Marc Platt has ever written, though it does have some intriguing and idiosyncratic ideas, as you might expect from this author.

One of the most fascinating is the characterisation of the solo Seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy). Obviously lonely, though touchy about the subject of his former friends, the Time Lord claims to have retired and is looking for a new challenge: "I could do that," he repeatedly states, emulating Yosser Hughes from Boys From the Blackstuff. This could be the same Doctor who recently lost travelling companions under tragic circumstances in any or all of the following stories: Roz in the New Adventures novel So Vile a Sin, Antimony in the webcast/audio adventure Death Comes to Time, Ace in the comic strip Ground Zero and Cat in the Telos novella Companion Piece. His ennui could account for why he has not yet visited Skaro to collect the Master's exterminated remains (as seen at the beginning of the 1996 TV movie), despite having apparently set off to do just that at the end of Platt's New Adventures novel Lungbarrow.

Another interesting aspect of this adventure is its exploration of an insect society. During the latter half of the tale, we are granted access to the termite colony, hearing the voices of the intelligent creatures through the magic of the TARDIS's translation system. Some comical dialogue, such as the Queen's (Susannah York) threat to tear one of her soldiers "limb from limb from limb", reflects the nature of the insects' biology and society.

Simon Robinson's incidental music is also worthy of note, combining '80s-style synth sounds (evoking the appropriate era of the television series - in a good way) with mechanical rhythms, insect-like chittering and unsettling, rustling footsteps. You can hear some of this music without those pesky actors talking all over it during the final two tracks of each disc.

The other extra features, the interviews, aren't very informative, though Green Wing's Michelle Gomez (who plays technician Jevvan, a sort of one-off companion for the Doctor during this story) is amusing as she adopts a Scandinavian accent and discusses having to initially dislike Billie Piper's replacement (Freema Agyeman) out of principle before ultimately loving her. It's a shame that Philip Jackson (alias leader Laxton) isn't interviewed at all.

As I say, this isn't Marc Platt's greatest work, but I think you still mite like it.

Richard McGinlay

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