Bang-Bang-a-Boom! by Gareth Roberts & Clayton Hickman

There's a good intention buried in here somewhere. Beneath the staggering campness, mock menace, Terry Wogan parody and Patricia Quinn and Graeme Garden, there's a great idea. Setting it all on "Dark Space 8" is the clue, and the basis for "Bang-Bang-A-Boom!" is a Star Trek parody that you don't even need to have seen Star Trek to enjoy.

The problem, I think, is that parodies and performances of grand bombast are best appreciated with something straight to contrast them against. The Doctor and Mel seem the problem here, even if both are as interesting as ever to listen to.

There's clearly a wish somewhere that Doctor Who had re-made "The Curse of Peladon" in Season 24. That's the TV serial that this owes the largest debt to. Of course, strange alien delegates are easier to conjure up on audio as we don't need to see them, and the arbitrating Packer is here because the existence of Alpha Centurai in the earlier story let's them get away with it. But the play is proof that time often cannot be wound back, even taking into account audio's shielding of graying hair and expanding waistlines. They may have winged it with Colin's softer portrayal of the Sixth Doctor and Mark Strickson's marginally more adult-sounding Turlough elsewhere, but for Sylv and Bonnie 1987 is sixteen very long years ago. The latter comes off best, although when her scene at the swimming pool with Nicky recalls "Paradise Towers", one cannot help but note how unbubbly and, well, unMelish she sounds in comparison. Likewise when the woman who "would help anyone" shuns Nicky in her next scene just because he got upset over his suffocating fame, I genuinely wondered if she wasn't Angola in disguise!

Sylvester on the other hand dances with senility in his public's ear. I was once told by a Big Finish sound "engineer" that McCoy's performances often have to be constructed by the syllable in post-production, such is the erratic nature of his delivery. Not to mock the afflicted of course, but maybe he should read the scripts through first like Colin, the only Doctor who does? Not that an absent-minded, word-chewing Doctor can't be fun (he's actually turning into our own Hartnell) but we mustn't forget their striving for authenticity here, not development. McCoy's Doctor shouldn't be any worse than he was in "The TV Movie". Unbelievably, often here he actually is.

And there lies the problem. It might work, had they set the story during Season 26, when the grand manipulator dropped bricks on his foot, or even better just before "Dimensions in Time", and allowed McCoy's tramp-wizard portrayal more exposure. But I was left wondering how much of the Seventh Doctor we see here is characterisation, and how much is simply a mad forgetful old actor bridging the years. When the Doctor's mixed-up proverbs of his first few stories are recalled with the line "it takes two to foxtrot!", or when he fluffs the terminology of the Space Station due to his adoption of an impostor Commander, I was left wondering if mistakes had really been made and then left in.

I also suspect the authors had ever so slightly more fun writing this than is achievable from this end of things. A while ago I wrote a Doctor Who story with a friend, called "Echoes of the Protii". I know I laughed a lot more when writing it than most of the people that read it, and now I know how they feel. There is a good story within "Bang-Bang-A-Boom!". There's just so much other stuff going on - the guest stars, the weight of the passing years since the time it's hoping to sound a native of, the expectation culled from the brilliant "One Doctor" - that the simplicity of the original idea gets irretrievably lost somewhere. A good intention, you'll agree, only counts when you can grasp it.


CD Facts

Part 1 - Tracks 1-8

Part 2 - Tracks 9-18

Part 3 - Tracks 1-8

Part 4 - Tracks 9-19