Monday, 14 October 2013

Doctor Who - Destiny of the Doctor 10: Death's Deal (October 2013) Review

Audio Go/Big Finish October 2013 Release
Doctor Who: Destiny of the Doctor 10
Death's Deal

Cast: Catherine Tate, Duncan Wisbey (Krux/Erskine)

Written by: Darren Jones
Directed by: John Ainsworth
Sound Design and Music by: Jamie Robertson

Reviewed by Louis Rabinowitz for The Gallifrey Times

This review may contain spoilers.

Audio Go and Big Finish's Destiny of the Doctor series has reached its penultimate installment - a Tenth Doctor adventure, Death's Deal.

Death's Deal features the Tenth Doctor and companion Donna - a dynamic pairing that became a fan favourite and was at the centrepiece of the most popular (ratings-wise) series of New Who. Couple that with the high-profile voice acting of Catherine Tate, and you've got some fairly lofty expectations to live up to. Does Death's Deal live up to it? Well... not entirely.

In the grand tradition of the Tenth Doctor era, Death's Deal is an action-adventure complete with quirky guest cast and slightly gruesome monsters. The audio takes place on the titular planet, where the Doctor and Donna are called to by several maydays. But being the most dangerous planet in the universe, things don't go entirely as planned and the Doctor and Donna find themselves stranded with the very definition of a motley gang - including a strange alien and a pilot that behaves suspiciously like a famous Catherine Tate character.

It's very much a sci-fi tale, with a plethora of beasts, strange plants and 'slaughter crystals' facing the Doctor and Donna as they attempt to complete a mission given to them, as has become a tradition in this series, by the Eleventh Doctor (providing a neat teaser for the uniting of the two Doctors in The Day of the Doctor).
It's also fairly gruesome - giant alien slugs and enormous worms are described in detail rarely seen outside of a wildlife report -there's also a very gruesome moment later on with Donna that would most likely have been ratherhard to realize on TV.

The characterization of the Tenth Doctor and Donna is spot-on, with plenty of textbook Donna and Doctor moments - complete with the Tenth Doctor's famous catchphrase 'I'm so sorry'. The band of survivors are barely fleshed out - and aside from alien Krux, they're not particularly interesting or sympathetic. Midnight proved that a good guest cast is key to an adventure like this - and with just one sympathetic guest figure, it's hard to be entertained by the gang the Doctor and Donna find themselves in.

The main weakness is the plot - it's just not that interesting, and the genuinely exciting moments are few and far between. It's a pity, because the concept is fantastic - but Death's Deal feels less 'the most dangerous planet in the universe' and more 'a moderately dangerous planet'. The Tenth Doctor's era was filled with thrilling, exciting episodes - but Death's Deal certainly doesn't touch the best of the era.

The casting of Catherine Tate is quite a coup for the series - but while she's clearly having a ball playing the Doctor and Donna, a couple of voices seem a little too similar. In a purely audio adventure, distinct voices are key - and Tate doesn't quite nail the whole cast. However, it's still a bit of a thrill to hear her playing Donna again, and her impression of David Tennant is really quite good. Duncan Wisbey does a good job as the aforementioned Krux - but his other character, Erskine, doesn't fare quite so well (it's more the fault of the script than the actor, however).

In conclusion, Death's Deal certainly not bad - there's some strong imagery, the story can be very exciting and it's often quite amusing - but the plot and guest characters are a little underwhelming for an adventure I was anticipating since the moment it was announced. After a stellar Ninth Doctor adventure, it's a little bit of a step down - but it's still diverting enough to be worth a listen.

The Gallifrey Times Rating: 6.5/10
Many thanks to AudioGo and Big Finish Productions for providing the audio for review.
Cover art courtesy of AudioGo