Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Doctor Who: Destiny of the Doctor 6: Trouble in Paradise (June 2013) Review

AudioGo/Big Finish June 2013 Release
Doctor Who: Destiny of the Doctor 6
Trouble in Paradise

Cast: Nicola Bryant (Peri), Cameron Stewart (Christopher Columbus)

Written by: Nev Fountain
Directed by: John Ainsworth
Sound Design and Music by: Simon Hunt

Reviewed by Louis Rabinowitz for The Gallifrey Times

This review may contain spoilers.

Audio Go's ambitious Destiny of the Doctor series has reached the halfway point - so after a disappointingly lacklustre, by the numbers Fifth Doctor installment, how does the Sixth Doctor's adventure fare?

The over-arching theme of the series has seen a certain character showing up at certain points in each Doctor's timeline and asking for an object - but his appearances have often been tucked away neatly in the halfway point of the audios. This time, this certain character (voiced excellently by Nicola Bryant) shows up right at the start of the audio, complimenting the Sixth Doctor's dress sense and asking for an 'Omni-Paradox', giving the Doctor and Peri co-ordinates to find one.

What follows is a surprisingly light story considering the subject matter - the Doctor and Peri land on a ship, and meet an explorer by the name of Christopher Columbus. The idea of a 'celebrity' appearance is more of a new-Who trend (Smoke and Mirrors used Harry Houdini to great effect), but it's used in an interesting way here - Columbus has no redeeming features whatsoever. He's portrayed as arrogant, brash and violent without a shred of decency - it's an interesting way to portray the character, and while it may have jarred elsewhere, it fits in well with Trouble in Paradise's more light tone.

I criticized Smoke and Mirrors for being too predictable - but Trouble in Paradise swings the other way, with a series of twists that genuinely continue to shake up the story throughout. Every time it sags, there's a new plot element thrown in to freshen things up. It's a pity that some of these plot threads fall into complete incomprehensibility - the monster, who I won't describe, has some of the strangest voice acting I've ever heard - for such a central character, it's a comical voice that might slightly put you off some of the monologues the creature has to deliver.

The plot isn't perfect - the story is a tad slapdash, with a plot that often includes some very strange twists and doesn't really hang together, the story suffers from an odd lack of scale and there's often large, barely disguised chunks of unashamed exposition that, while neatly explaining the story, interrupts the flow and pulls the listener right out of the story. None of the guest characters are remotely likable, either.

It also makes the interesting choice of presenting certain chapters as entries in the captain's log of Christopher Columbus. These are some of the funniest parts of the audio - it doesn't really provide a deep insight into the character, but offers quite an amusing glimpse into some of the more interesting decisions Columbus makes - it's not the most original plot device, but it manages to accomplish its goal well, and provide some of the highlights of the adventure.

The voice acting on display here is impressive too - Nicola Bryant, aka Peri, does a great job as most of the characters in the play - reading with her familiar American twang as Peri and her native accent as the Doctor - both with aplomb, effectively providing a contrast between characters and avoiding falling into the ages-old trap of making all the characters sound the same. Cameron Stewart is also excellent as Columbus - effectively conveying Columbus' pompous tone (and the odd voice of the alien).

Overall, Trouble in Paradise is a fun audio that both benefits and suffers from a stream of odd plot twists, but suffers from an ever-so-flimsy story and bizarre, poorly explained villain. Still, it's fun while it lasts, and if you want an old-fashioned Sixth Doctor romp, you could do far worse.

The Gallifrey Times Rating: 8/10
Many thanks to AudioGo and Big Finish Productions for providing the audio for review.
Cover art courtesy of AudioGo.