Saturday, 6 April 2013

Doctor Who - Destiny Of The Doctor 4: Babblesphere (April 2013) Review

AudioGo/Big Finish April 2013 Release
Doctor Who: Destiny of the Doctors 4
Babblesphere

Cast: Lalla Ward (Romana), Roger Parrott (Aurelius)

Written by: Jonathan Morris
Directed by: John Ainsworth
Sound Design and Music by: Steve Foxon

Reviewed by Oliver Jenkins for The Gallifrey Times

This review may contain spoilers

I'm going to start this review with two confessions. The first being that I've never actually listened to a Destiny of the Doctors release before. They've always been prioritised somewhere further down the wishlist chain.

One of the reasons for this being my second confession, which is that I dislike the Big Finish Companion Chronicles. The reason why I say this is because these releases are more or less a Big Finish Companion Chronicle, with one actor or actress doing most of the characters' lines with another actor or actress sometimes accompanying them. My dislike for this format is because it's simply harder, for me anyway, to connect with the story itself when just one person is trying their best to impersonate people and play all the characters, because you find yourself taken out of the world that you're suppose to be invested in to try and figure who they're impersonating and, if their impersonation's off, you spend the rest of the audio trying to picture what the character they're trying to portray would actually say the line like, rather like reading a book. Personally, I think the Destiny of the Doctor range would have benefited from being a fully cast audio production, but I can see the reasons for this not happening, including a certain cameo that I'll talk about later.

Despite the complications of the second confession, brilliant though Lalla Ward's impersonation of Tom Baker was at times, I found myself thinking of how the Fourth Doctor would say the lines throughout the majority of the production, I actually enjoyed Babblesphere.

The plot itself was intriguing and had a dynamic range to it. From the eerie, cobweb stricken hallways of the palace to the virtual dome of the Babblesphere itself. The writer, Jonathan Morris, gets the vibe of the Fourth Doctor era across effortlessly in this story. Everything from the computer foe to the dialogue between the Doctor and Romana screams the Tom Baker era of Doctor Who. What's especially clever, I find, is Morris' subtle use of language and conversation that's similar to the social networking site Twitter, with characters saying "hash" in the middle of their sentences and modern day abbreviations such as "OMG". This not only gives the modern audience something to relate to, but is a brilliant way to make satire of something that's engrained into most people's lives in a subtle manner.

The acting from Lalla Ward is spot on for Romana, and her impersonations of other characters closely match them. A highlight of the story has to be Lalla Ward impersonating the old women resistance group, which as a concept itself is something straight out of the Fourth Doctor Era of Doctor Who. Her impersonations of those women, though painfully stereotypical, are hilarious, hopefully they're supposed to be interpreted that way. Roger Parrott's acting is utterly marvellous in this, maybe I'm putting it more on a pedestal because it was a welcome relief to hear a different voice. When his character is taken over by the Babblesphere I literally jumped in my seat, because the change in voice was so subtle yet terrifying that I was scared witless. I don't think I'll ever listen to one of these at some ungodly hour at night again.

There is a cameo from a certain someone, who I won't reveal the identity of, however much I want to, who Lalla Ward impersonates perfectly. The Fourth Doctor's reaction to this certain character is to me one of the highlights of the story, probably because it's a Whovian's dream.

Overall, Babblesphere perfectly encapsulates the Fourth Doctor era of Doctor Who that I know and love, with brilliant performances from Lalla Ward and Roger Parrott, sublime writing from Jonathan Morris and brilliant music and sound design from Steve Foxon. I would highly recommend anyone who loves these character to give the story a listen, and I'm definitely going to try and hunt down the rest of the Destiny of the Doctor stories in the future.

The Gallifrey Times Rating:  9/10
Many thanks to AudioGO & Big Finish Productions for providing the audio for review.
Pictures courtesy of AudioGO.