Audio Drama Review: The Oseidon Adventure

We’re back, with another Big Finish Doctor Who audio drama review! This week, we’re listening to The Oseidon Adventure, the conclusion to the Fourth Doctor Adventures, series one. Let’s get started!

Spoilers ahead for anyone who has not listened to this audio drama!

Oseidon Adventure 1

Immediately following the events of Trail of the White Worm, the Doctor and Leela watch as the white worm transforms into a spatial wormhole, and the Master calls his allies through.  Many tanks come through the wormhole, until the Master stops the rain, causing the procession to stop.  The tanks are occupied by Kraals of the Second Kraal Army—and they are led by Marshal Grinmal, who remembers how the Doctor destroyed the first army.  The Master offers the Doctor as a gift to the Kraals, who summon their deadly android servants.  The Doctor sends Leela away as the Androids take him down; she promises to return with allies and weapons.  The Master sends Spindleton in his own tank to recapture her.  Grinmal wants to take the Doctor back to their homeworld of Oseidon, but the Master wants to kill him now; the androids intervene and disarm the Master, taking away his staser; they then send the Doctor back through the wormhole to their chief scientist, Tyngworg.  Meanwhile, Spindleton loses Leela in the woods, and sends his helicopter to find her.  The Kraals bring the Master back to the house with Spindleton.  Grinmal negotiates with Spindleton, who wants to rule England when the Kraals conquer the rest of the world; Grinmal approves the plan, and imprisons the Master in the stables; he swears revenge.

Leela uses a horse from the stables to trample the androids guarding the Master. He tries to hypnotize her, but she slaps him, breaking the spell; she frees him, intending to make him fly the TARDIS to rescue the Doctor.  Meanwhile, Spindleton and Grinmal confer about strategy, and Spindleton wants them to attack the local village, Dark Peak, as an example to the surrounding country.  Spindleton wants to burn it, but Grinmal suggests a matter-dissolving bomb.  On Oseidon, the Doctor is restrained by Tyngworg; he jokes about having been strapped to that table before.  Tyngworg intends to drain off the Doctor’s knowledge with an analyzer device, as his predecessor once tried to do; it will take eight minutes.  Outside Spindleton’s house, Spindleton and Grinmal see Leela and the Master race by on one of Spindleton’s prize horses; Spindleton prevents Grinmal from shooting them, for fear of hurting the horse, assuming that the army will hem them in.  Grinmal dispatches the army toward Dark Peak.  Leela gets the Master to the TARDIS, but the Kraals are guarding it; therefore Leela takes Master and the horse through the wormhole to Oseidon.  Beholding the ruined landscape, the Master explains that the surface is radioactive; he suggests that the Doctor is in the nearest of the Kraals’ underground bunker.  Unknown to them, Tyngworg is monitoring the area, and overhears the plan.

The Master and Leela find the Doctor, who is disoriented and calls Leela “Tilly”; he explains about the transfer (or rather, copy) of his knowledge. Tyngworg is monitoring the cell as well, and hears the Doctor tell Leela that the Master will be dropping in on Tyngworg, and that therefore they should go there as well.  Moments later, the Master arrives, but Tyngworg is on his side; Tyngworg mentions that the Doctor in the cell is an android duplicate, which does not know it is a duplicate.  Tyngworg insists he is aware of events on Earth.  The Master tries to hypnotize him, but is unsuccessful, and finds that he himself is an android; Tyngworg is the real Master in disguise.  He sheds the disguise and destroys the duplicate.  The real Doctor is still on the table; he congratulates the Master on his success; however, the Master still intends to kill him.  First, however, he resumes Tyngworg’s voice and calls Grinmal for an update; Grinmal reports that Spindleton has delivered a slightly-eccentric ultimatum to the British government.  He also reveals that UNIT is approaching, and the Master orders him to detonate the bomb as soon as UNIT arrives, even if the ultimatum has not been answered.  When Grinmal objects, he activates an override code for the androids, ordering them to return to Dark Peak and activate the bomb.  The Doctor congratulates him again, but then says it may have been a mistake to leave him connected to the analyzer; his ongoing experiences are still being fed to the android duplicate, so that it knows everything now.  The android arrives to attack, but is shot down at once; but the Doctor is not deterred.  Instead, his duplicate had taken the opportunity to create a Tyngworg duplicate, which is even now ordering the androids to disarm the bomb and attack the Kraals.  The Master loses contact with Grinmal, but in retaliation, he orders an autodestruct of the android Tyngworg.  He then moves to attack the Doctor, but suddenly funds that again, he is an android—and as he ceases to function, the real Master has yet to be seen.  Leela rejoins the real Doctor at the behest of the duplicate—and the Doctor wonders where the real Master is, and what he is doing, as the Kraal invasion seems to be a distraction.

On Earth, UNIT is mopping up the Kraals and the androids, but they can’t find Spindleton, and astrange-colored blood trail leads into the woods. The duty officer at UNIT HQ hands the base over to the Master, and is killed for his trouble.  Spindleton and the Master infiltrate the Doctor’s old lab at UNIT, where Spindleton begins to rebel; however, the Master hypnotizes him and sends him out to join the guards.  On Oseidon, the Doctor and Leela create a new duplicate of the Master to interrogate.  The duplicate doesn’t believe he is an android, so the Doctor has him try (and fail) to hypnotize Leela; he lacks the psychic empathy field that real Time Lords possess, and therefore cannot do it.  Leela intends to melt him down, causing him to beg them to stop; the Doctor wants him to betray his original self, but he refuses.  The Doctor realizes that the wormhole is an integral part of the Master’s plan, but how?  He realizes the duplicates have the Master’s personality, but not his knowledge relevant to the current situation; therefore he looks at recently-deleted items in the Kraal computer.  He finds a file indicating that two types of harmless radiation, Z-radiation and O-radiation, can combine to create deadly ZO-radiation, which has the power of a billion neutron stars.  The Master duplicate realizes that the real Master wants this radiation to restart his regeneration cycle and become functionally immortal.  If he does so inside the wormhole, he will survive the process.  Oseidon is saturated with O-radiation; for the requisite Z-radiation, he turned to Earth, knowing that the Third Doctor once stashed a Z-radiation battery in UNIT HQ after failing to jump-start the TARDIS with it.  The android breaks free of its restraints, forcing the Doctor and Leela to run away.  The duplicate accesses the records to learn the real Master’s plan; but he finds a message from the real Master, who anticipated this possibility.  Accessing the deleted files activated a matter dissolution bomb under the lab, which will detonate in seconds.

Outside, Leela recovers the horse, and uses it to get them back through the wormhole to Earth. There they meet Captain Clarke, who is acting commander of UNIT while the Brigadier is away on business in Canada; the Doctor has him contact HQ, but he gets no response.  The Doctor realizes the Master must already be there, trying to steal the battery.  The Doctor persuades Clarke to order the convoy back to HQ; he takes Leela to recover the TARDIS and get there ahead of the soldiers.  He insists that if the Master has already succeeded, Clarke will meet him on the way back to the wormhole; the battery plays havoc with TARDIS navigation systems, forcing the Master to transport it by road.  At the TARDIS, they encounter Grinmal, who alone survived the betrayal.  Leela subdues him.  However, the Doctor hears a helicopter, and realizes that the Master is sending the battery through the wormhole in that manner.  As anyone aboard will die in the detonation, the Master can’t be there; and they only have until he arrives to recover the battery and seal the wormhole.  Grinmal realizes his world is about to be destroyed, and volunteers to help stop the Master; he takes Leela and goes to recover the battery, while the Doctor wants to find out how to seal the wormhole.  Meanwhile, Spindleton has arrived on Oseidon with one of his men and the battery; they set up in the mock village of Devesham that the Kraals use as a training center.

Using the TARDIS, the Doctor intercepts the Master, who admits to the plan. The Doctor tricks him into admitting that a temporal pulse will close the wormhole, as executable by any TARDIS.  However, the Doctor reveals that the ZO radiation cannot be controlled; he suggests that this Master as well is a duplicate, and that the real Master is waiting in orbit.  The Master draws a staser, and decides to kill the Doctor at once.  On Oseidon, Leela and Grinmal kill Spindleton’s man, and intends to recover the battery, but Spindleton reveals that it is very unstable, and will trigger if he falls on it.  He reveals his goal in the plan; the Master promised him a rebuilt country, filled with android duplicates which will obey him.  Spindleton shoots Grinmal.

The Doctor demands proof that this Master is genuine before he dies; he suggests that the real Master intentionally withheld knowledge about the uncontrollable nature of the radiation. The Master insists he is real because he can sense a Time Lord in the vicinity (a function of the psychic empathy field), whereas the Doctor doesn’t sense one.  The Doctor admits defeat.  The Master contacts Spindleton and reasserts his control over him; Leela sees this and attacks Spindleton, dragging him away from the battery.  The Master tells the Doctor he will activate the battery by remote; and he forces the Doctor toward the wormhole.  However, the android from the exploding lab comes through the wormhole, having escaped the blast with only some damage; the real Master fires on him, but staser blasts can’t hurt an android, and the duplicate captures him, leaving the remote with the Doctor.  The duplicate drags the real Master into his TARDIS, intending to force him to repair him and give him control of the TARDIS, as he now considers his android self to be the superior version of the Master.  The Doctor bids them goodbye, and takes his own TARDIS to Oseidon’s Devesham.  He finds Leela and Spindleton, and plans to take Spindleton to UNIT custody; but Spindleton intends to stay here, finding this mock village preferable to the real England.  He sends them away, but asks them to take the horse home and set it free; though it’s a magnificent horse, history reports that it was a famous stolen horse, and therefore they can’t return it to its original owners.  They depart in the TARDIS with the horse.

Oseidon Adventure 2

After a rocky start, the first series of Fourth Doctor Adventures ends strong in this story. We pick up immediately after the events of the previous entry, Trail of the White Worm, with the titular worm having transformed into a wormhole to the planet Oseidon, home of the mutated and militaristic Kraals. In typical Master fashion, what follows is a series of twists. The Kraals are known for one thing in particular; they create fantastic android duplicates which have not only the form of their victims, but also the personality. Therefore, once this story begins, it will be a long time before you know who is real and who isn’t. I won’t spoil it; but for once the twists are perfectly deployed. Once again we see the mock village of Devesham as deployed in The Android Invasion; and this time it ends up with a permanent human resident at the end (although, if he is not also an android, he may not last very long—a point that isn’t really addressed when the Doctor leaves him there).

This is a UNIT story, and as such it is hard to get a firm date. The promotional material indicates it takes place in 1979, but with the difficulty in dating UNIT stories near the end of the Brigadier’s tenure (due to contradictory statements within the classic series—the infamous “UNIT dating controversy”), it may actually have to be as early as 1975. UNIT HQ is mostly unchanged, with the Doctor’s things still in the lab. The Brigadier is still around, but is not seen here, being on assignment in Canada. The Master seen here is again the Geoffrey Beevers incarnation as seen up to The Keeper of Traken, indicating this story predates that serial, but comes after Dust Breeding. He’s at his best here, playing several conflicting versions of himself; with disguises and stasers and plots within plots, this is a story that harks back to the Master stories of the Fourth Doctor era very well, and even somewhat to the Third Doctor era.

Leela gets a better treatment here than in some of the earlier stories. I don’t mean to harp on the same point all the time, regarding the Doctor’s poor treatment of her; it’s just that it continues to be relevant! Here, however, there’s none of that for once (she does get called “Savage”, but by the Master this time, and his opinion hardly counts). She’s quite a force in this story: rescuing the Master, navigating the wormhole, freeing the Doctor, taking out the Kraal leader Grinmal, and then allying with Grinmal to recover the Z-battery, the story’s macguffin. She began the series weakly, but ends very strong, and I couldn’t approve more.

There’s one new bit of technobabble here, which adds to the lore of the series a bit: Time Lords possess a psychic empathy field, by which they recognize each other when close together, and by which the Master is able to easily mesmerize others. It’s been handwaved a bit in the past, but here it’s an integral part of the story.

References are mostly back to The Android Invasion, and I’ve covered most of them. The Doctor does refer to meeting the Master last on Gallifrey (The Deadly Assassin); and the Master’s TARDIS is in the form of a grandfather clock, which it will still be as of The Keeper of Traken.

Overall: Great story, with little to complain about. If Series Two is this good, we have something to look forward to.

Oseidon Adventure 3

Next time: I’m debating between Series Two, with the Fourth Doctor and Romana I (played by Mary Tamm before her untimely death), and another range. We’ll find out next week. See you there!

All audio dramas featured in this series may be purchased from Big Finish Productions; this story’s purchase page is linked below.  This and many other selections may also be found on Spotify and Google Play.

The Oseidon Adventure

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Doctor Who Audio Drama Review: Phobos

We’re back, with another Big Finish Doctor Who audio drama review! This week, we’re listening to Phobos, episode four of season one of the Eighth Doctor Adventures range of audios. Let’s get started!

Spoilers ahead for anyone who has not listened to this audio drama!

phobos-1

We open with a couple of thrill-seekers, Chrissie and Scott, in a series of ice caves. Chrissie gets pulled through a river and deeper into the cave systems; and we find that this is an extreme sport on this world. Trying to get Scott’s help to get back to the surface, Chrissie hears him screaming over the radio as he is attacked by…something.

The Eighth Doctor and Lucie Miller arrive on the surface, and the Doctor determines their location: It is the year 2589 (early in the Earth Empire period), and they are on Phobos, one of the moons of Mars. Lucie is immediately caught in a net, but its owners—who were trying to trap an animal—realize their mistake, and help the Doctor cut her down. The two young men, Drew and Hayd, admit that they were concerned about rumors of monsters in the area, and were attracted by the sound of the TARDIS landing. Only one man in the area—Lunar Park, as it’s called—has actually seen the monsters, but few people believe his stories. They then admit that they came here for a strange feature of the mountain on which they stand: it has a vertical shaft in the top, colloquially known as the Wormhole, in which no one has ever located the bottom. It’s used for bungie jumping—in fact, the entire moon is a haven for extreme sports of all types, attracting adrenaline junkies, or “Drennies”—and they intend to try it out.

Elsewhere, an odd couple disembarks at Lunar Park. Amy is a human; her husband, Farl, is a Githian, a larger and stronger humanoid race. Though it won’t be mentioned for some time, they’ve come here to hide; their relationship is not accepted by the Githians, who want to maintain the purity of their species, and so hunters have been dispatched to bring them back. They are met by a woman named Eris, who is the unofficial engineer of Lunar Park, as the colony is essentially left to itself with no oversight. They then meet an old man named Kai Tobias, who will turn out to be Eris’s partner of sorts. He tells them about the monsters that are alleged to come from the wormhole.

The Doctor and his group reach the wormhole, and he confirms that it isn’t natural. No one knows how deep it goes; the Drennies award great respect to those who go the deepest when bungie jumping. The rope that Hayd and Drew have brought will stretch to over 3,000 meters before snapping back; Hayd takes the first jump. While they wait for him to return, Lucie borrows a telescope from the Doctor, and spots a couple lying on the ground near a pool in the distance. The Doctor decides to check it out on the way back to the camp.

Amy and Farl discuss leaving due to the monster stories, but opt to stay. Eris rebukes Kai for spreading the rumors about the monsters, or Phobians, as he calls them. She sends him to check on Rosa, another visitor who was recently injured and has been unconscious; when he leaves, she apologizes for him, and assures them that the stories are not true.

Hayd and Drew identify the couple as Chrissie and Scott, and discover that Scott is dead, and Chrissie is in shock. With the Doctor and Lucie, they bring the duo in, and send Chrissie to the park’s med-cabin for treatment; she’s exhausted, but unharmed. Kai is convinced that the Phobians killed Scott, and the Doctor can’t counter the idea for now.

The next morning, Drew and Hayd have plans to go grav-boarding; despite the killing, they decide to go through with it anyway. The Doctor and Lucie discuss events thus far, and overhear a distressed conversation between Farl and Amy; Eris explains some of what she knows about them, and about the Githians in general. The Doctor leaves to talk with Kai. Amy and Farl argue about their plans, and split up briefly. Lucie goes to console Amy, and the two decide to put on spacesuits and take a walk on the surface outside the dome. Kai, meanwhile, talks to Farl, and unintentionally makes him angry by admitting that others have been talking about him. Eris and the Doctor arrive, ending the conversation, and Eris says that the Doctor has agreed to check on Rosa, who is still unconscious.

On the surface, Amy tells Lucie about her controversial marriage; and she admits that she is pregnant with Farl’s child, although she hasn’t told him. They are interrupted by screaming, which their suit communicators pick up; knowing it can’t be far away, they run to check it out. It’s Hayd and Drew; Hayd is the one being attacked, apparently by a Phobian. Lucie and Amy arrive to witness the end of the attack, which leaves Hayd injured; they call for the Doctor and Eris, who come running in a buggy. Lucie lures the monster away, and the Doctor sends her up onto a rock, where she helps him trap the creature away with the buggy. When it ceases to move, the Doctor examines it, and finds that it is actually a construction droid, left over from the construction of Lunar Park. He suggests that it couldn’t kill on its own, and was sent to do so—and he knows just who is probably responsible…

Farl gets into a fight with some Drennies, and hurts one of them. Kai interrupts and tells Farl that Amy has been outside, and is now in the med-cabin; anxious, Farl goes to find her, and rebukes her for leaving. Learning of his fight, Amy is upset, and runs off again. He then gets into a brief shouting match with the Doctor, startling Lucie. The Doctor storms off to confront Kai, and accuses him of controlling the construction droids. Kai admits it, and then shoots the Doctor and Lucie with a stun weapon. He summons one of the droids and causes it to carry them to the wormhole, where they will be thrown in. Eris sees this, and gathers Drew, Amy, and Farl to go and intervene.

At the wormhole, Kai awakens Lucie and the Doctor, having tied them up. He tells them he intends to throw them in—but he is intercepted by Drew with a net, and knocked unconscious. Drew unties them, but they are attacked by the robot, which is still obeying Kai’s last command. The Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver to detach its leg, disabling it.

Strange sounds come from the wormhole. The Doctor awakens Kai. Kai explains that all his lies and attacks were genuinely intended to protect everyone from something far worse than the Phobians. The wormhole houses a “god” which came from another reality, one consumed by fear. As that universe collapsed, the creature somehow found access to our universe, and was trapped in the wormhole. It then manipulated the environment to create all the extreme attractions; thus it would attract people, who would provide it with fear, on which it feeds. However, Kai has learned there is a catch: The creature can’t use pure fear, but rather, must have some euphoria with it to make it palatable; hence all the thrill-seeking behavior. In fact, pure fear harms it. Kai further suggests that the Doctor is feeding the creature; he thrives on saving people, which is a form of thrill-seeking much stronger than that of the Drennies.

The creature takes over Eris, and speaks through her, confirming what Kai says. It thanks the Doctor for freeing it. The creature is maximizing its efforts by speaking through Eris, whom Kai loves, thus increasing Kai’s fear; it will do the same to Farl through Amy, and Drew through Hayd (Drew denies being in love with Hayd, but is forced to admit it’s true). In so doing, it will take the living of this universe and craft a new body for itself, allowing itself freedom. Thus far, though, all it can do is talk; and the Doctor engages it. He uses the bungie equipment to leap into the wormhole with Eris, thus feeding the creature his true fears—not his euphoric thrill-seeking, but what he really fears. He shows it fear in the past, and in the future…and worst of all, in himself, fear of what he may become. It is too much for the creature, and it dies, screaming.

Eris does not survive the experience. Back at the park, the Doctor and Lucie watch as things are patched up between Farl and Amy, with Amy telling Farl about her pregnancy. Hayd and Drew also recover. The group then sets a funeral pyre for Eris, with Lucie lighting the pyre. The Doctor lets Kai go, knowing the truth about why he did what he did; and now, in Eris’s memory, he will try to make Phobos a better place. The Doctor and Lucie return to the TARDIS, and Lucie inquires about what the Doctor showed the creature; but she decides she doesn’t want to know. In a world of monsters, the Doctor may be more frightening still.

As Hayd and Drew begin to discuss Drew’s feelings, they are interrupted by Rosa, who finally awakens. She asks about Lucie Miller, and is advised that she just missed her; furious, she wants to go after her. She is revealed to be the Headhunter.

phobos-2

In general, I’m finding that the Eighth Doctor Adventures move very quickly, making them difficult to follow if there are any distractions at all. That’s not a bad thing; it’s a refreshing change from the classic-format Main Range audios. This one, however, felt like it was over nearly before it had begun. If translated into real time, the entire story would take place over just a few hours. With all that said, I enjoyed it; it’s a decent addition to the season.

I admit that I expected it to be an Ice Warrior story, with the proximity to Mars. As it turns out, the short story Crimson Dawn (published in Decalog 2: Lost Properties, 1995) establishes that Phobos is artificial, a failed generation ship of Ice Warrior origin, and at that time contained a large population of Ice Warriors in hibernation. However, that story—involving the Fourth Doctor—is not referenced here, and the Eighth Doctor doesn’t seem to be aware of that origin for Phobos; but neither is it directly contradicted.

It was good to see the Headhunter make an appearance after her conspicuous absence in Immortal Beloved. While her storyline isn’t exactly picking up speed as yet, she’s becoming more intense; and we should start seeing more action soon. It will be interesting to see how she’s tracking Lucie through time and space; is she somehow detecting Lucie, or is it the TARDIS she’s following?

Lucie seems to be warming up to the Doctor, but that is possibly undermined at the end when she realizes that he may be a person to be feared. It’s a good lesson; we’ve had hints before of what the Doctor is capable of (for example, the Leader in Inferno is suggested to be an alternate version of the Doctor, and of course the Valeyard is a possible future—and evil—Doctor in Trial of a Time Lord and Trial of the Valeyard), and we will again with the Tenth Doctor’s “Time Lord Victorious” in The Waters of Mars. Lucie seems to have calmed down a bit from her initial appearances, and is now less concerned with getting home—she doesn’t really mention it here at all—and is taking an active role in the Doctor’s adventures. She’s less a passenger now, and more a genuine companion. Her attitude, however, remains unchanged.

It was interesting to see the Doctor lose his temper toward Farl. My experience with the Eighth Doctor is still limited, but I’ve found him to be extraordinarily patient most of the time (unlike, say, Six or Four). I can’t really account for the different reaction this time; I suppose even the Doctor has buttons that can be pushed. Still, it’s perhaps indicative of the rising strain throughout this incarnation’s lifetime, and especially after the beginning of the Time War (which still lies ahead). His dialogue during the argument, with its “Don’t ever threaten me” ultimatum, is more characteristic of the Eleventh Doctor, who was prone to such dogmatic and dramatic speeches.

References to other stories are debatable here, but present. The Doctor refers to “evil from the dawn of time”, which is the terminology used to describe Fenric in The Curse of Fenric, although it could easily apply to other stories both past and future. His statements about what he fears he may do are likely an allusion to the Valeyard, as I mentioned, though it’s not spelled out. His reference to solar systems vanishing in the twinkling of an eye probably refers to the events of Logopolis, where an influx of entropy destroyed a large swath of the universe, including the Traken system. “Entire species destroyed” may refer to his own genocide in Terror of the Vervoids, or possibly to other species with which he witnessed the death of their final members (Eldrad, Scaroth, and Meglos all come to mind). The fear-consuming nature of the creature has been seen before, especially in The Fearmonger, although that creature originated in this universe and existed on a smaller scale. I’m still a little annoyed over the absence of the Ice Warriors, however; they would have been a natural choice here.

Overall, not a bad story, but it feels a bit like an interlude in the season-long arc rather than a full story. That’s unfortunate, given the scope of its villain, but it can’t be helped.

phobos-3

Next time: Ironically, we do get an Ice Warrior story in Main Range #8, Red Dawn; and we’ll continue the Eight Doctor Adventures with No More Lies! See you there.

All audios in this series are available for purchase at Big Finish; link to this story is below.  This and many others can be found on Spotify and Google Play.

Phobos

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