Written by Eddie Robson
Directed by Ken Bentley
Cast:Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Sophie Aldred (Ace),
Bonnie Langford (Mel Bush), Julie Graham (Carolyn), Jade Anouka (Danuta), Todd Heppenstall (Stuart Dale), Clare Calbraith (Orla), Louis Tamone (Vinny), Ignatius Anthony (Lee).
Big Finish Productions - Originally Released August 2017
Available Now on General Release
The second installment of the recent trilogy of adventures for the Seventh Doctor alongside Ace and Mel finds them coming back to a fairly familiar setting of Merseyside in 1991. It seems slightly odd that having had several previous adventures set in Liverpool owing to the presence of former companion Hex that neither he didn’t even rate a mention. This combined with Ace’s more youthful persona which has shown through in recent audio adventures has led this reviewer to wonder if this series is set prior to the arrival of Hex although for reasons that will be elaborated on in my review of the next release this seems unlikely.
Leaving these minor gripes aside, it seems appropriate to put Ace and Mel into a time which might have been contemporary if this series of adventures had followed on directly from the TV series’ cancellation in 1989. As such we are introduced a new element of Mel’s backstory in the shape of her ex-boyfriend Stuart, played by Todd Heppenstall who has an instant rapport withBonnie Langford that allows the listener to believe they really could be old university chums. In this story Stuart appears to have had a significant reversal of fortune since he and Mel last met as he is now managing a shipyard which seems to have bucked the trend of the early 1990s recession and be successfully ship-building with the help of his mysterious financial backers, the Dark Alloy Corporation. At this stage enter the sinister Carolyn, played as a fun villainess byJulie Graham, it isn’t spoiling too much to reveal that she is a character with much more going than on than is initially revealed.
This is an enjoyable tale of double-crossing, alien espionage, the science of magic and a reinforcement of the old fable that you should never go into business with mysterious strangers who probably aren’t human. Whilst Ace and the Doctor get into all the usual sort of trouble, and as ever Sophie Aldred and Sylvester McCoy are on great form as usual, this story really belongs to Bonnie Langford’s Mel. For the first time since she rejoined the TARDIS crew last year (and indeed since she left originally left Pease Pottage with the Sixth Doctor – see the novel Business Unusual and the 2013 audio play The Wrong Doctors) we see her back in rightful time and place and seriously tempted to stay there.
Overall another fun story to accompany The High Price of Parking, although listeners will possibly hope for something with a little more originality from the concluding story for this year The Silurian Candidate.