DW: The Skin of the Sleek / The Thief Who Stole Time Review

DW SOTS and TTWST

The sixth series of Fourth Doctor Adventures ends, as per usual, with a four-parter spread across two months. Unusually however, this story focuses much more on Romana than The Doctor himself, and manages to pull of a really good story. The extra time was a God send as it allowed the unusual planet and a new character from Romana’s past to both be fleshed out. So, for the last time this year, let’s have a closer look! (last time for a Fourth Doctor audio, anyway…)

Official Synopsis:

On the planet Funderell you can walk on the ocean. The surface holds you when you move, but if you stand still, you sink. Lights shift in the fathoms and great shapes move beneath your feet – schools of giant electric eels known as Sleeks.

There is no solid land and the only locals are the Wavewalkers, hunters who live in floating villages. But recently some strangers have arrived, pursuing their own distinct agenda.

When the Doctor and Romana lose the TARDIS to the deep, they need help. Which makes finding a fellow Time Lord on the planet very useful. The fact that Time Lord is Sartia, an old friend of Romana’s, is even better!

But this is a planet of secrets. Be careful when you explore its depths. You may just drown…

Note: Full Spoilers From Here On Out!

Cast of Characters:

DW Skin of the Sleek Cover

Always nice to see a new character on the cover, even in the face she’s pulling looks… wrong somehow…

The Doctor (Tom Baker) – Time travelling Time Lord, The Doctor’s worst nightmare is a quiet day with nowhere to go or nothing to do…

Romana (Lalla Ward) – Romana has a tough time to start with on Funderell, and the arrival of an old Time Lord academy friend just manages to stir up more trouble… it’s going to be a long day…

Sartia (Joannah Tincey) – Sarita is an old “friend” of Romana who has ideas greater than the stuffy offices of the Time Lords…

Eamonn Orensky (Alan Cox) – Videographer who is looking for the next big story to catapolt his failing career. A mysterious planet and several mysterious visitors are just the start, planet Funderell turns out to be pure gold!

Klick Chervain (Kieran Hodgson) – Hangs around with Eamonn and controls the ship… or at least tries to. Unlike Eamonn, Klick actually has a conscious and is uncomfortable with a lot of the footage his partner records…

The Wavewalker Village (Various) – The village is home to several people, all of whom mysteriously have West Country accents, that worship the Sleek and follow the lines written in a mysterious old book…

Plus more!

The Good:

While Tom Baker is still on fine form as the Fourth Doctor, the stand out performance has to go to Lalah Ward, who not only isn’t bored and monotone but actually has some acting to do! Romana is left abandoned by her old friend Sarita, who reveals she and the rest of the class hated Romana due to her smarts and “teachers pet” status, and actually leaves her to die at the end of Part 2 (or the end of Skin of the Sleek, if you want), leading to the blonde-haired companion to actually breakdown, both emotionally due to her friends words, and to the general realisation that she had been left abandoned in an endless void of … squidgy ocean. This emotional breakdown crops up a few more time in the second half of the story, and it’s very well done. Top marks for Ms. Ward, makes me wonder where this had been all series…

The character of Sarita is an interesting one due to her connection to Romana, even when he true intentions have been shown she still shows a level of inexperience and subtle nervousness that makes the character far more interesting than a lot of similar “must get the powerful Time Lord artefact and rule over time!” characters. It’s a good performance and a fun storyline.

While I wasn’t too thrilled with the magic book of the Time Lords, the actual planet and its rubbery, spongy ocean and the people that live in floating villages was all brilliantly realised. It’s an odd planet and all the fresher for it. I did like the backstory that the planet was a dangerous nexus point and the ancient Time Lords sealed it off, leaving a group of guards who eventually become the more simple, backwards people we meet over many centuries.

Some good action set pieces as well, with Romana and Sarita’s encounter with the large, “Queen Sleek” (or something like that, I can’t remember the exact name the locals give it) and The Doctor’s various encounters with both the village and a large amount of super-large Sleeks.

The Bad:

DW The Thief Who Stole Time Cover

While the actual cutting and creating new images is great, there is something about these covers I don’t like… I think it’s dull brownish background colours…

I have to say that the ending felt a tad flat, Sarita gets the book and is corrupted by its power, offers Romana a chance to side with her, then is pretty much tricked out of it. Everything is reset and that’s that. It would have been a bit more interesting to see some sort of impact come from it, not that Doctor Who has never had The Doctor leave a place a safer version of what it was to start with, it’s just with the stakes as high as they were I felt it needed a bit more to it.

Eamonn and Klick, a.k.a. caricature of selfish TV personality and his generic goodguy sidekick (sideKlick?) served their purposes, but were pretty cookiecutter, which stood out amongst some original locations and characters.

The Continuity:

Despite dealing with Romana’s old school friend (who hadn’t actually appeared or had been even mentioned previously), this has little connection to any other story.

Overall Thoughts:

The Fourth Doctor Adventures Series 6 ends on a high note, thankfully. The story gives us a unique location and some interesting characters and twists, and yet never really slows down too much. Sarita is interesting and Romana is given plenty to do for a change, so overall it’s a very strong entry. Not perfect, but an entertaining four-part story.

4 Star Listen

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