Doctor Who and the Pirates

Starring: Colin Baker
Big Finish
RRP 13.99
ISBN 1 84435 024 X, BFPDWCD7CH
Available now

Evelyn Smythe tells one of her students a rip-roaring tale of rum, buried treasure and peg legs as she recounts her piratical adventure with the Doctor...

As you might expect from the title and the synopsis, this tale is not intended as an accurate historical account of piracy on the high seas during the 18th century. Nor is it strictly a genre pastiche, such as The Gunfighters or Big Finish's own The Church and the Crown, even though there are plenty of references to the work of Robert Louis Stevenson. No, Doctor Who and the Pirates has more in common with The One Doctor and Bang-Bang-a-Boom!, as it spoofs the conventions of the historical Who stories themselves. Therefore, it's actually a pastiche of the genre-pastiche genre, if you see what I mean!

And so the production team permit their performers to overact to extremes, particularly in the case of former Goodie Bill Oddie as the pirate Red Jasper and Nicholas Pegg as the craven ship's captain, Emmanuel Swan. I was also amazed to hear Colin Baker sing, for the first time since Soldiers of Love. Throughout, Evelyn's (Maggie Stables) audience of one, Sally (Helen Goldwyn), points out the historical anachronisms and dubious vocalisations, thus assuring the listener that, yes, it is supposed to be this silly.

I have no problems with the self-mocking aspects of this story. After all, I loved The One Doctor, and thought Bang-Bang-a-Boom! was pretty good too. What doesn't work for me is the fact that the writer, Jacqueline Rayner, also attempts to tag on a couple of tragic elements, which jar against the prevailing tone of the piece. I am forced to agree with the Doctor when he suggests that perhaps Evelyn chose the wrong story to tell Sally.

Doctor Who and the Pirates should have had the courage to be either out-and-out zany, or a full-on tragedy. It cannot hope to be both, and indeed it does not succeed in being either.

Richard McGinlay

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