Doctor Who Review: The Tenth Doctor Adventures: No Place
After I listened to the first volume of Big Finish’sTenth Doctor series I couldn’t wait to listen to the next one. Volume 2 featured Rose instead of Donna however and I decided to skip that volume; mainly because of the price I would have to pay for a companion who overall I’m not that fond of. But it was worth skipping to get straight to this story because once again I was blown away not only by how much I miss this era, from the epic title sequence, but David Tennant as the Doctor. Big Finish really know how to best write for him as they strike a great balance with his darker, more intense side and his comedic roots while never losing his instant owning of the room. It just shows how three dimensional and versatile the tenth Doctor is as he can fit into any characterisation and work flawlessly. This story also features Bernard Cribbins as Wilf after almost 10 years away from the role and he is as loveable and hilarious as one would expect. While he was iconic and entertaining in the series I like how the story doesn’t really have him acting like a mad obsessive of the Doctor instead opting to give him some more levity and he gets a wonderful moment where he talks about his time as a soldier and how the fear of knowing today would be a day of fighting and death shaped him as a man.
Out of all the stories in this volume No Place is the one I was most excited for. Not just because it saw Wilf and Sylvia join the TARDIS team but also because it was written by James Goss who has written some of my favourite Doctor Who stories of all time including, but not limited to, Death and the Queen which was in the first tenth Doctor boxset and was nothing short of a masterpiece. Another character that Goss introduces that makes up the final stretch of the TARDIS team is Justin who is meant to start out as a generic TV host; obsessed with ratings and editing but goes on to reveal more layers including playing a key role in the climax of the story. I think that the character of Justin is rather bland despite the story trying to give him some depth and is one of the weaker elements of the story but he is still performed well and had some fun scenes with the rest of the cast. Another thing to mention with this story is that it is really well directed by Ken Bentley. The direction in other Tenth Doctor audio stories was good and I am a massive fan of Nick Briggs’ work but it was nice to see a fresh take in this boxset and Bentley portrays the soundscape of the house brilliantly with some excellent sound design.
The plot is quite simple as most of Goss’ scripts tend to use stripped back or simple premises in order to allow for the characters to stand out and allow them to be explored. The story sees the Doctor and Donna go undercover, pretending to be a married couple on a haunted house TV show in order to investigate some of the activity in this house turned community centre that Donna went to as a child. Interestingly the story was based on or rather inspired by a story Tom McRae was commissioned to write for series 4 before it was replaced by Midnight. While I feel bad that McRae didn’t get a chance to write for Doctor Who properly until 2011 I’m glad this story got to use the idea of a haunted house show as the creepy atmosphere works better without visuals and instead allows the viewers to imagine it themselves. I mentioned in my previous review that the boxset has a standard in which even if the story is bad then the chemistry between Tennant and Tate is still compelling and entertaining. However Goss goes above and beyond here in this story making the best part be the hilarious interactions they have as they pretend to be a madly in love couple with pet nicknames like Pumpkin or snowflake as well as some deliberately nauseating dialogue that they deliver in such a layered and satisfying way as it is convincing as well as hilarious in the fact that they both hate doing this. However a large criticism I have is that I don’t think the story really did as much as it could with the premise and twists. Not every story has to deal with complex subject matter in order to be good but I feel Goss, based on his other work is more than capable of exploring some interesting themes in other wise straight forward narratives. Like in Death and the Queen, which was a darkly comedic base under siege, which explored themes of loyalty, corrupt parliaments and the abuse of power in an otherwise straight forward set up. While I’m not angry that the story didn’t explore any themes I am disappointed mainly because I know this can can be done especially by this writer.
Overall this was a solid and fun story to start off the next trilogy of stories. Tennant and Tate are outstanding as usual and Goss’ dialogue delivers a delightfully fun and witty story even if it didn’t live up to its full potential. The strengths lie in the dialogue and character interactions and I cannot wait to see what is going to happen later on in this volume.
Written by: James Fraser
My plans for the next few reviews involve the remainder of the Tenth Doctor Adventures volume 3 and the Talons of Weng Chiang review that I’ve been meaning to do for ages. After that I have some third Doctor audios and novelisations I would like to review also.