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Tuesday, 23 April 2013 - Reviewed by Tom Buxton

Destiny of the Doctor: Babblesphere
Released by AudioGo
Produced by Big Finish
Written by Jonathan Morris
Directed by John Ainsworth
Released: April 2013
This review is based on the CD release from AudioGo and may contain minor spoilers.

“Yes- I dare say he had a good reason. I usually do...”

Satirical productions are everywhere these days, with recent Doctor Who episodes like The Bells Of Saint John proving shining examples of modern writers’ takes on current social trends and technology. For the Fourth Doctor instalment in their Destiny Of The Doctor audio range, AudioGo have taken it upon themselves to echo these growing commentaries on our reliance on knowledge and communication. Babblesphere marks a shining highlight in the franchise so far, and with any luck should set a precedent for the remaining seven adventures still to come.

Set on a human colony inhabited by a seemingly omniscient and omnipotent technological matrix, Babblesphere once again perfectly encapsulates the vast science-fiction and inherently interplanetary tales of Tom Baker’s Doctor and Lalla Ward’s Romana. Although Baker isn’t present on recording duties for this script, Lalla does an exemplary job of reviving her companion character and indeed mimicking her former co-star throughout the story. Roger Parrott provides superb support too, taking on the role of a bewildered user of the Babble network who finds himself in the middle of a growing catastrophe.

What’s perhaps most reminiscent of the rather defining 1974-1981 era of Doctor Who here is the sense of an inherent investigation of the human condition even in the context of a distinctly alien society in comparison to our own. Yes, there’s plenty of satire on offer to link the Babblesphere to Sol 3, yet undoubtedly we’re in extraterrestrial territory, so it’s testament to the sound creative vision of writer Jonathan Morris that he can make the entire narrative experience feel just as grounded as the legendary Who works of classic writers such as Douglas Adams did back in the good ol’ days.

Of course, no entry in the Destiny audio range would be complete without an allusion to an ominous future to come for the Eleventh Doctor in the franchise’s finale. As we’ve previously mentioned, the Fall of the Eleventh and the Fields of Trenzalore will no doubt be dealt with on screen in The Name Of The Doctor, yet whatever the various references to events that have to be preserved to help the Time Lord’s current incarnation in a battle to come are building to, we can be sure that November’s The Time Machine will provide a pay off in a satisfying fashion. It’s sadly the only real weakness of Babblesphere that this month’s arc reference feels a tad shoehorned in for the sake of it, yet for dedicated fans of the range the reference will at least provide further interest for the evolving story in the months ahead.

Whereas past instalments in the Destiny range - particularly last month’s Vengeance Of The Stones - have presented numerous shortcomings of note, it’s a pleasure for this reviewer to confirm that that particular franchise story arc niggle is the only real gripe to be found this time around. Beyond that, Babblesphere is easily the most confident, audacious and compelling instalment in the range yet. Lalla Ward is an incredible narrator both in-character and of the events surrounding the story’s constructs, the atmosphere of the world and its inhabitants is palpable, and more than ever there’s a sense of true dedication to this release’s chosen era of the show’s fifty-year history. Doctor Who has produced its fair share of groundbreaking and memorable satirical stories in the past, and without a doubt this reviewer can add Destiny Of The Doctor’s Babblesphere to the widening list of the finest examples of this budding new genre.

FILTER: - Fourth Doctor - Audio - BBC Audio - 50th Anniversary - 1471311708