Doctor Who
Other Lives

Starring: Paul McGann
Big Finish Productions
RRP: 14.99
ISBN 1 84435 162 9
Available 13 December 2005

London, 1851: scene of the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations. It is also the scene of a plot to unseat the government, dethrone the monarch and start a republic, if the Duke of Wellington is to be believed. Separated from the TARDIS, the Doctor, Charley and C'rizz are left to wonder whether they will be forever entangled with the lives of others...

Following the dreary and often depressing Divergent Universe arc, stories such as this and Terror Firma thankfully prove that the Eighth Doctor's audio adventures can be fun, just as they were during their first couple of "seasons". Admittedly the previous tale, Scaredy Cat, was something of a disappointment, but tellingly that actually started out as a Divergent Universe script.

Here we once again have fun with an Earthbound setting, something that was simply not possible during the Divergent arc. In addition to witty dialogue from the regulars, writer Gary Hopkins includes Dickensian names such as Rufus Dimplesqueeze (Maitland Chandler) and Jacob Crackles (Mike Holoway), while Ron Moody (for whom Hopkins has written before during ITV's Into the Labyrinth) is on fine form as an elderly but far from retiring Duke of Wellington.

Coincidentally, the Iron Duke recently appeared in Terrance Dicks' latest Doctor Who novel World Game. In fact the two stories complement each other well, because Dicks' book provides a good grounding for events in this adventure. World Game depicts the brief meeting that took place between Wellington and Nelson, as well as Napoleon Bonaparte's numerous attempts to defeat the British, all of which are also referred to here. Wellington is amusingly rather jealous of Nelson's celebrity, in particular the (ahem) size of his column.

Of course, neither the Doctor (Paul McGann) nor the Duke refer back to their earlier encounters, but this is understandable. The Time Lord was in his second incarnation at the time, which explains why Wellington fails to recognise him. I suppose the Doctor could have tried to explain his change of appearance, but we can assume that the reason why he doesn't is to avoid the risk of being carted away to the nearest loony bin.

Hopkins' comedy of manners relies heavily on the unlikely coincidence that the Doctor, Charley (India Fisher) and C'rizz (Conrad Westmaas) all have doppelgangers in 1851, and there are some dodgy French accents courtesy of two of the above, but otherwise this serial makes for luxuriously leisurely listening, rather like wallowing in a warm, 130-minute bath.

Richard McGinlay