Written By: Andy Lane,
Adapted By: John Dorney
Directed By: Ken Bentley
Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor),
Lisa Bowerman (Bernice Summerfield),
Yasmin Bannerman (Roz Forrester),
Travis Oliver (Chris Cwej)
WITH: Andrew French (Beltempest),
Philip Voss (Robot/ Under-Sergeant),
Amrita Acharia (Rashid/ Computer/ Shythe Shahid),
Robbie Stevens (Dantalion/ Homeless/ Securitybot),
Jot Davies (Powerless/ Pryce/ Hater/ Evan Claple).
( Other parts played by members of the cast).
Written By: Andy Lane + Adapted by John Dorney
Director: Ken Bentley
Sound Design: Russell McGee
Music: Crispin Merrell & Gordon Young
Cover Art: Tom Newsom
Executive Producers: Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs
Available on 2 CDS or Digital Download
Duration: 2 hours approx
Big Finish Release: December 2016
General Release: 31st January 2017
The future Earth Empire is truly a bustling and expanding phenomenon. But something very suspect and decadent lies at its core. Two of the law-keepers of the ‘United Kingdom’ – better denoted as Spaceport Five Overcity – start their day assuming ‘business as usual’. One is the experienced Roz, the other the relatively fresh-faced Cwej.
By the end of their run-in with a mysterious little man called ‘the Doctor’ and his unusually informal academic friend Bernice, they will have markedly different views of their identity and the wider cosmos around them. Unstable stasis fields, cybernetic technology, and travels across the stars will all come into play. And a slug-like race known as the Hith will have a chance to restore their reputation, in spite of the sizeable propaganda delivered on the ever-present public newscasts.
Original Sin was a novel that saw the New Adventures range re-calibrate for a different ‘era’. Following the milestone that was Human Nature – a book so remarkable it had a second telling as a Tenth Doctor story in 2007 - more ‘traditional’ adventures across the cosmos were back amongst the status quo. Sporting a very nice cover, the book is now unfortunately hard to track down, and thus for many this adaptation is even more welcome.
I had become a somewhat infrequent reader of the paperback adventures, at the time. Owing to having a multitude of other books to read as part of homework assignments, as well as those tomes given as presents, the net-result was that the Seventh Doctor’s literary incarnation had some serious competition for my escapist affections.
Damaged Goods had already showcased the wonderful duo of Cwej and Forrester, with Yasmin Bannerman and Travis Oliver established as committed and engaging performers. Credit once again to them for managing to convince of the same characters, but this time at an earlier point in their lives; before they had the chance to travel with the Doctor and Bernice.
What is important, and what Ken Bentley so handily delivers in this play, is a credible bonding process between the two markedly different Adjudicators. The listener swiftly cares for their friendship, and it is also important that they relate as well as they do to the Doctor’s present companion; Professor Summerfield.
Supporting characters are especially well done here, a by-product of Andy Lane’s sterling source material and enlivened with panache by the voice talent enlisted by Big Finish. Especially well-characterised is Provost-Major Beltempest, who goes from seemingly heartless military professional to someone more helpful and open- minded, and then a key twist is revealed which ties in with one of the core story strands. Also the psychotic criminal Zebulon Pryce is portrayed in more than broad brush strokes, and together with the Doctor – during a standard moment of captivity for our title hero - has a truly fascinating ethical debate, where some of the ‘Time’s Champion’ burden is fully explored. The only real drawback is the scale of the story, and thus some familiar sounding voices recur as some cast members have two (or more) roles.
Sylvester McCoy and Lisa Bowerman typically work well together, and this story sees an even better partnership. Whilst their alter egos do split up several times, they have enough audio time together, which perhaps was not the case in a story such as The Highest Science. With plenty of knowing wit and teasing of one another, it is clear they match as personalities, and furthermore it is clear that each would take a bullet/ laser/arrow for the other.
Having a returning villain from the classic series is typical for the Virgin line of books that lasted for much of the Nineties. This antagonist hales from the black and white days of the TV series, and is well-done and authentically acted; thus justifying his/her inclusion. Furthermore, the theme of survival, but at the cost of identity, is nicely combined with this use of Who continuity.
The demented prisoner Pryce is in some ways a more interesting character in the context of the story proper, but I still enjoyed the nod to the past. However the inconsistency over the TARDIS’ internal dimension rules is only re-enforced in the final showdown, so perhaps this area of Doctor Who lore is best regarded as a convenient plot device (along with the likes of the Sonic Screwdriver).
Also I did find the Hith voices an acquired taste, and the timbre also for some reason reminded me of the rather forced third cliff-hanger from The Paradise of Death; a contemporary of the Virgin New Adventures, but rather more solitary compared to the Big Finish audios that followed.
However any quibbles with the production are negated by the truly superlative interludes featuring news broadcasts to the various citizens of the Earth Empire. Often showing just how little humanity has advanced in terms of emotional intelligence and diplomacy, they are a great way to prevent the story proper from ever stalling. Transitioning from one supremely confident anchor to a rather more ‘wet-behind-the-ears’ colleague further on, these ‘excerpts’ of daily life add much to the already competent world building conveyed by the dialogue from the supporting characters, in addition to the exposition the Seventh Doctor so eloquently provides to his dear friend Bernice (who certainly appreciates it in spite of her sizeable qualifications).
The previously released Seventh Doctor audios managed to deftly condense the source material of these often groundbreaking novels, and this latest release is particularly confident, thanks to the experienced and astute writing skills of John Dorney.
A whole-hearted recommendation is awarded to this two-parter. I hope more such adaptations will follow, in due course.
Full and candid interviews are again in supply here, along with some proper explanation of what the production team were aiming for with this re-telling. McCoy in particular has some interesting input, as well as evident enthusiasm that he has so many opportunities to deepen the character, that he first portrayed all those years ago in the final stanzas of the 20th Century.