This review is based on the CD release from AudioGo and may contain minor spoilers.
Destiny of the Doctor: Trouble in Paradise
Released by AudioGo
Produced by Big Finish
Written by Nev Fountain
Directed by John Ainsworth
Released: June 2013
"I really need an Omni-Paradox. I need you to store its awesome energy within the TARDIS so I can use it later for a very important thing I’m doing. The existence of the universe is at stake..."
Whereas the first five instalments of the Destiny of the Doctor range have had a lot of common, albeit each boasting their own definitive tone based on the era they represent, from this point onwards it seems as if each of the final six releases will be far more distinct from one another. In the case of Trouble In Paradise, it’s time for Colin Baker’s Sixth Doctor to go under the radar, and it seems fair to say that this release will differ greatly from the McCoy, McGann, Eccleston, Tennant and Smith adventures still to come.
The premise here is simple enough- the Eleventh Doctor calls upon his former self to hunt down an Omni-Paradox, tracking such an element to a 15th Century sailing vessel containing none other than renowned explorer Christopher Columbus. This set-up allows us an intriguing interaction between the Doctor and a man he believes to be one of his greatest inspirations. Of course, as the old saying goes, you should never meet your childhood heroes- and just as Shakespeare and Van Gogh appeared to vastly contradict the Time Lord’s preconceptions, so too does Columbus bear a startling darkness in his heart.
Typically enough for an audio outing which is so intently focused on replicating the tone of its chosen era of Doctor Who, Nev Fountain elects to have the Doctor travel with his most faithful companion of this particular incarnation- Perpugilliam Brown. Nicola Bryant is our narrator of proceedings, then, seeming to inhabit her 1980s role again with breathtaking ease, while additionally managing to provide a fair reproduction of Baker’s protagonist. Nicola is joined by Cameron Stewart, who lends Columbus that aforementioned darkness and moral ambiguity, as we listeners discover that this ‘great’ explorer may not have been the hero that most would have expected.
The narrative of the adventure is helped in no small measure by being prompted by an appearance from the latest version of the Time Lord. In past instalments of the Destiny range, the 50th Anniversary links featuring the Eleventh Doctor worked to the stories’ detriment due to feeling somewhat misplaced, yet by having the Eleventh incarnation be the trigger of events to come, it lends his cameo a greater presence and dramatic impact. Once we’re down to business, though, this tale of ‘El Diablo’ (a supposed physical manifestation of the Devil) is a fairly well-worn adventure that fans will recognise as bearing strong similarities to previous televised and audio stories alike. Nostalgia isn’t necessarily always detrimental, yet it can have a profound negative impact if allowed to dominate a story’s structure and characterisations.
Did Fountain perhaps rest on his laurels somewhat, then? That could certainly be one interpretation of Trouble, a morally ambitious Sixth Doctor audio adventure that seems too intent on paying homage to the past. The problem, though, is that the drama’s writer was quite probably asked to adhere to certain tonal and narrative boundaries in order to properly fit the Colin Baker years without ever stepping too far away from the status quo. During isolated moments, the story does venture into interesting uncharted territory, but too often are these ventures painfully brief and regularly jarring with the ‘classic’ tone of the remainder of this release. This shortcoming doesn’t completely rob the audio drama of its dramatic impact, yet for long-time fans either of the classic era of the show and/or even simply since Doctor Who returned in 2005 (this reviewer falls in the latter category), this sense of déjà vu is something of a sore point. For many, it seems that an overdependence on nostalgia was what killed the programme at the climax of the ‘80s, so with Steven Moffat thankfully focused on ensuring that the 50th Anniversary Special introduces as many new elements as it does reference the past, it seems strange that AudioGo has kept its range so nostalgia-orientated.
Let’s not dwell too heavily on the negative aspects of Trouble In Paradise, however. Indeed, much like the Colin Baker era as a whole, to lament its flaws too heavily is to miss much of this audio release’s charm and wit. Nicola Bryant has slipped effortlessly back into the role of Peri and does wonders with the narration, the direction of the piece is accomplished and Nev Fountain’s script is accessible and empathetic despite its lack of innovation. If this latest entry in the Destiny range does herald a series of distinct concluding instalments, then, we can at least rest assured that AudioGo will maintain their focus on adhering to the tones of each era of the show, for better or for worse. Doctor Who’s past can often be just as much of a hindrance as a blessing, but in this case, it should be of great benefit as the last fifty years of the programme will define one of the most ambitious and innovative audio ranges that fans have yet had the opportunity to experience.
Filters: Sixth Doctor Audio BBC Audio 1471311724 50th Anniversary