Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Max Warp [8th Doctor + Lucie Miller]


This is fun.

Doctor Who takes a satirical hammer to Top Gear whilst in the middle of an interplanetary Agatha Christie story. The Doctor gets to play Hercule Poirot and Lucie Miller gets to be Doctor Watson - or should that be Captain Hastings - and we all have a rather enjoyable time of it.

It's got a fantastic cast starting with Graeme Garden as Geoffrey Vantage aka His Royal Highness Jeremy Clarkson. The satire is pretty broad but Garden does a good job bringing out Vantage's 'act', which comedian Stewart Lee has described quite accurately as 'having outrageous views for money'. Whether Clarks...sorry Vantage believes everything he says is a moot point.

Then James Fleet gets to be O'Reilly, Vantage's main abuse point on the 'Max Warp' show. It's basically the Big Finish version of James May with added tediousness. Fleet's got a niche playing slightly stupid, posh blokes (see Four Weddings and a Funeral  or The Vicar of Dibley) and O'Reilly's almost one of those, but not quite. He's more of a train spotter than that.

You can guess what's next: Timbo 'The Ferret' aka Richard Hammond aka the one who has the accident played by Duncan James or - to give him his correct name - Duncan James (of Blue). He's pretty good actually, even sounding a bit too much like Richard Hammond for his own good. Apparently he's also the voice of President Varlon's 'spinbot', which you'd never guess so hurrah for Duncan James (of Blue) I say.

President Varlon, who is caught up in the whole mess and is trying very hard not to let her terrible poll statistics from leading to another destructive war between The Kith and the...er...the...other people. Varlon's played with a certain sharp charisma by Samantha Hughes, whilst the Kith - with their bizarre West Country accents (lots of planets have a Bristol as well as a North apparently)* - are played by Nick Brimble. The thing I like about the Kith is that we're given hints of what they might look like without (obviously) ever being able to see them.

O and Katarina Olsson turns up again as Judd Gilbride, the Security Officer. She's got an amazing way with accents and voices does Olsson. It's impossible to tell that it is her based on any previous appearance.

It is the danger of a new war that is the key reason why a simple murder mystery might lead to something far nastier and as a result the Doctor's investigation is essential. Fortunately - and in the nickest of times - he solves the case, gets to do the great Detectives summing up scene with all the possible suspects (although at breakneck speed. We don't have that much time) and in the end it turns out that...ah...spoilers.

Add Paul McGann (who makes the Doctor's joy in this whole thing pretty obvious) and Sheridan Smith doing a grand job (as well as having a ball by the sounds of things) and you've got a entertaining and amusing story, even if it isn't the most subtle of satires.

If you've not heard a Big Finish story before, this might not be a bad one to start off with. It's not dark, it's not arc and it's pretty self-contained. It is however a little atypical by being so obviously comedic, even if it does have a sliver of a dark lining in the talk of war, death and more war.

Enjoy.

*I like the idea of a story where all the aliens speak with different British regional accents for no apparent reason. Maybe it is the TARDIS having fun. This story comes close: we've got posh, we've got Northern and we've got South-Western, North-Eastern and Scottish all vying with each other for our attention.


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