Thursday, November 15, 2012

Phobos [8th Doctor + Lucie Miller]

Phobos is a nice little story. It's well-acted, well-written and a perfectly presentable piece of Doctor Who audio.

There you have it.

In the shell of a nut.

I am beginning to feel that these stories - being made for the (then) BBC Radio 7 audience - have had something Big Finish sucked out of them. That makes perfect sense. I don't necessarily think BBC Radio 7 would have been prepared for some of the heavier, more experimental stuff that Big Finish produced back in the days of the Divergent Universe.

But I'm pining for a bit of something indefinable that's been missing from all the Eighth Doctor and Lucie Miller stories so far. Some genuine sense of menace and in a story that is about fear it seems remiss to be almost utterly devoid of terror.

The story unrolls neatly enough. There's a red herring here, a dash of emotion there and occasionally people we don't know at all die. It is bereft of almost any real heart, except for a few moments when Kai (Timothy West) and The Doctor have their discussion about who is worthy to light a funeral pyre. It's so tidy. Even the hideous monster from another universe gets dispatch with a whimper not a bang,

Yes, there's a nice bit of stuff involving the Doctor's fear: what he's seen, what he will see and what he might be capable of. It also makes Lucie Miller much more aware that the Doctor isn't quite the person she's assumed he is. That she's under-estimated what he might be capable of herself. It's nicely played by Sheridan Smith.

But no I'm underwhelmed.

It isn't the acting. Everyone does a lovely job with the lines they get to say: from McGann, through Sheriden Smith to the exceptional Timothy West (whose voice is just made for audio) and the well-pitched Nerys Hughes. All the minor parts too are nicely played, including another sneaky appearance by Paul McGann's son.

It's not the words. They tell a nice, simple story that gets wrapped up a bit too quickly, which - if I may steal a moment - is the real curse of writing Doctor Who stories. It must be tough to pull all the various plot strings together, defeat a seemingly terrifying & unbeatable monster and wrap everything up. The loose ends and plot holes must be a bugger. The sudden desire to pull a rabbit out of a hat or a deus out of the machina must be unbearable. The ending of this is serviceable enough considering the lack of time that a one part, fifty minute story gives you. That whooshing sound isn't a deadline this time. It's the sound of the rapidly approaching episode ending and...cue music!

Perhaps that's what I'm missing. I've been concentrating on these 8th Doctor stories and Christopher Eccleston so there's hardly a cliffhanger to be seen. Am I cliffhanger junkie? Do I need the constant jeopardy of four part (and beyond) stories to satisfy my hunger for fear. Have I become the FEAR MONSTER?

Maybe I have.

Maybe that's what I've missed.

Whatever it is 'Phobos' seems to be to be missing something but that's not to say it isn't worth a listen. It is. It's Doctor Who. What's not to like?

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