Doctor Who

Starring: Sylvester McCoy
Big Finish Productions
RRP: 14.99
ISBN 1 84435 158 0
Available 01 July 2005

In a Victorian-style asylum, the patients complain of betrayal and Faustian bargains rather than illness. What procedures are the staff carrying out, and to what purpose? Mel knows that the Doctor is the best person to find the answers, but the TARDIS has returned without him...

Mel (Bonnie Langford) separated from the Doctor (Sylvester McCoy)? Sounds a bit like The Juggernauts.

The Doctor imprisoned in a loony bin? That's happened many times before, in Minuet in Hell and The Sleep of Reason, to name but two examples. On this occasion, the fact that the Time Lord has recently regenerated lends extra weight to the possibility that he may truly have descended into madness. Remember that when the Sixth Doctor suffered from post-regenerative dementia in The Twin Dilemma, he described himself as "unregenerate".

A bewildering story that appears to make little or no sense? The same could be said of the Seventh Doctor's previous Big Finish adventure, Dreamtime. Fortunately, although deliberately perplexing to begin with, David A McIntee's story gradually makes more sense as it develops, offering up clues to the more dedicated Doctor Who fan before eventually disclosing all the answers.

Though the eventual explanation of what is going on in the asylum seems rather convoluted, it intriguingly ties in, whether deliberately or coincidentally (and not wishing to give too much away here), with events in Eighth Doctor novels such as Alien Bodies and The Shadows of Avalon.

Ian Potter's incidental music uses some of the same instrumentation as Jonathan Gibbs' score for The Mark of the Rani, which makes it a little distracting for me. Perhaps Potter is trying to highlight the similarities between the two stories (unethical scientists messing with people's heads, and all that) but more likely this is just an unfortunate coincidence.

Sylvester McCoy, never the world's greatest actor, goes over-the-top as the institutionalised Time Lord. Another vexing vocal problem is that I had trouble distinguishing Gail Clayton's character, Rigan, from that of Jennie Linden (who played Barbara in the Dr. Who and the Daleks movie), Klyst. And it's sometimes hard to tell what the gestalt entity Shokhra (Sam Peter Jackson) is trying to say.

On the plus side, though, Bonnie Langford remains as reliable as she has ever been during Mel's Big Finish renaissance, and she is ably assisted by Toby Longworth as a plain-speaking cabbie.

Unregenerate! isn't one of Big Finish's best-ever works, but it shows encouraging signs of recovery in the Doctor Who range following a recent lapse in quality.

Richard McGinlay

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