Doctor Who: The Bad Penny Review

DW Bad Penny

The Bad Penny, despite having a pretty boring title and being set in London AGAIN, is actually really entertaining, a lot more than the previous story in the Fourth Doctor Adventures S7. Time paradoxes, aliens, time-displaced people, it’s a fun hour-ish ride, so let’s take a closer look!

Official Synopsis:

In the 1970s, hotelier Ron Tulip is having a difficult time. Many of his customers seem to be absconding without payment. The few who remain complain of strange noises and terrible sleep. And to top it all he’s just been summoned to the VIP suite… which is something of a problem as he didn’t even realise the hotel had one.

When turbulence in time takes the TARDIS off course, the Doctor and Leela find themselves visiting the same establishment and in the middle of a temporal paradox and a terrible plan.

Because that’s the thing about the Cross-Keys hotel. You can check in… but you can never leave.

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

Cast of Characters:

The Doctor (Tom Baker) – The Doctor finds himself drifting off course due to some temporal turbulence, though it isn’t too bad because he finds himself in the familiar setting of London, though with a rather unfamiliar hotel…

Leela (Louise Jameson) – Leela is unsure of more modern surrounding most of the time, let alone when walking in a temporally unstable modern hotel!

Ron Tulip (Greg Haiste) – Ron has resigned himself to his fate: no chance of fame or fortune, just a small rundown hotel and a mysteriously out-of-touch assistant that he doesn’t remember hiring…

Lord Tulip (Keith Barron) – Lord Tulip comes from another timeline where he became a big success, everything he always wanted… with the small snag that he became attached to a time-eating vortex beast known as the Hadean, who now wants to feed on the temporal paradox of the two Tulips meeting…

The Hadean (Dan Starkey) – A time-eating vortex beast, all tentacles and slobber. Finds the idea of temporal paradoxes to be a rather delicious thought…

Edwin (Andrew Ryan) – Edwin is from Victorian London, but after picking up a penny, instead of having good luck for all the day, he found himself rocketed to the future, where he has been just going along with it…

Plus more!

The Good:

DW Bad Penny cover

Another fun cover, though something about having a big penny and The Doctor holding a penny seems odd. Pick one or the other, given the singular title…

Stories that deal with paradoxes and alternate timelines and such can either be really fun, or just confusing. Thankfully The Bad Penny is much more the former, with the idea of a hotel constantly shifting to different time periods being particularly fun. Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor has a blast with this, some properly fun dialogue and scenes for him to pull off, including talking to a future version of himself through a mirror, which nicely comes back round to the other side of the conversation later in the story. Plus some good old fashioned “pissing about” with the lead villains, which is always a good laugh!

I’m not quite sure about the two Tulips… does the rich one think he can only exist if this Tulip becomes him, or is he just fully under the control of the Hadean and doesn’t know what he’s doing? Its just that Lord Tulip seems to be from another timeline rather than the future of this one, so I was a little confused, but either way both the older, unpleasant rich Tulip and a rather less secure and more trusting young Tulip are well played and developed characters, so I don’t really mind the lack of clarity.

For what little he did, Edwin was a fun character as well, misplaced from time but instead of going completely mad, he just went with it in the hopes he’ll someday find a way home. I was happy he got the sometimes-rare happy ending by actually being put back in his right place in time.

The Bad:

Well, apart from coming just after a story (sort of) set in 40s London, having the story set in London, not to mention having a character from that most over-used of time periods Victorian London, made this feel a bit… boring to start with, but thankfully the original setting soon became irrelevant as the story continued.

Leela didn’t do a lot in the story, but that happens sometimes, and given the resulting story was good, it obviously didn’t impact it much.

The Continuity:

Once again this is pretty much standalone, unless you want me to list stories that deal with paradoxes, but in that case I’d be here all day…

Overall Thoughts:

The Bad Penny is a fun hour-ish of zany time paradoxes, fun characters and an interesting plot. It does suffer from some problems, but those are only minor, and aren’t that noticeable when you’re actually having fun listening to the story. A good refresher after the previous effort…

4 Star Listen

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