Doctor Who: Dethras Review

DW Dethras

The sixth series of Fourth Doctor audio Adventures continues and reaches a rare high point. Dethras is an great story, uses its runtime perfectly and does a few new and / or interesting things among a generally good Doctor Who story. This is Adrian Poynton’s first story for Big Finish, and I certainly hope it’s not his last. Let’s take a closer look!

Official Synopsis:

In the control room of a World War 2 submarine something strange has started to happen. As the ship runs out of control, its crew begin to fall unconscious…

Finding the submarine in the last place they’d have expected, the Doctor and Romana are confronted by a mystery. Once fully populated, there are now only three men on board. And there’s now also a chimpanzee.

What has happened to the rest of the crew? What are the strange noises they can hear outside the hull?

And most importantly, who, or what, is Dethras?

Note: Full Spoilers From Here On Out!

Cast of Characters:

The Doctor (Tom Baker) – The Doctor is feeling giddy again, wanting to be rid of the randomiser and choose a fun destination… Given the random location they end up in here, he may have been right…

Romana (Lalla Ward) – Romana is tetchy, for reasons unknown, and so when The Doctor starts talking about removing the randomiser despite the fact that it could draw the attention of the Black Guardian, she’s furious… though sadly for her, she might be wrong on this one…

John / Dethras (Alistair Petrie) – Famous for his research into hyper-evolution, Dethras had ran from his people in fear of what they would do with his new creations…

Franklin (John Banks) – A chimpanzee who has been slightly evolved further than normal… then quite a bit further, gaining the ability to talk… it works better than it sounds…

Flague (Shelia Ruskin) – After losing her loved ones in war, Flague has had a bit of a breakdown, thinking the best way to prevent people losing loved ones in war is to kill all those who may one day wage war… Mm… Great plan!

Plus more!

The Good:

DW Dethras Cover

Great detail on the cover, right down to the TARDIS being taken away near the bottom (easy to miss!)

It’s been a while since I’ve listened / watched to a Doctor Who story where I’ve had no idea where it was going until much later, and loved every second of finding out. The Doctor and Romana are in a submarine, then they’re in a submarine where there are only three crew left and a mysterious chimp has appeared, then the submarine is floating in space, then they’re attacked by mysterious creatures, and so on. It’s really fun following the madness, and it never really feels like crazy for crazy’s sake, just a good story, with tongue firmly in cheek for certain parts.

The two main new characters of Dethras and Flague are both tragically flawed. Dethras did research then it ended up costing the lives of Earth soldiers who were nabbed from their home, Flague is crazy, sure, but only due to being broken by tragedy. It’s good to get such interesting characters in these 1 hour stories, a lot of the time they’re just stock characters thrown in because the story has to fit in.

The idea of creatures, or in this case transformed humans, being able to adapt on the fly to whatever situation their body is put in, is a fun idea. Yes, even the “monsters” of the story are tragic, though at least they got a happy ending. I wonder what planet they’re left on by The Doctor, who claims the planet having intelligent inhabitants so early in its history is a mystery in the future. Would be fun to meet future descendants, especially if they have the same ability…

I kind of wanted to hate Franklin the chimpanzee, but what the hell, The Doctor waving goodbye to talking chimpanzee in a rocket ship heading off for adventures was so bizarre it made a huge smile break out across my face, so he gets a pass!

The Bad:

This is more a “bad” for the whole series, but I’m kind of getting fed up of The Doctor and Romana being split up for most of the story. I get they record in different locations and so their dialogue has to be stitched together, but… just one or two stories here and there to break things up? Maybe?

The Continuity:

No continuity to be had here, apart from the fact that at the end of the story The Doctor mentions wanting to go to Brighton, which would put this story right before the TV story Leisure Hive, though given the TARDIS’s record for arriving where it should, the rest of this Fourth Doctor Adventures series could easily happen in between…

Overall Thoughts:

Dethras is one of those rare great Fourth Doctor releases. I was trying to come up with some bad stuff, but just couldn’t! It kept me entertained for the whole length, came up with some good ideas and new continuity, and was generally well written with interesting characters. A top notch debut story, that’s for sure! More please!

5 Star Listen

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