DW: Red Planets Review

DW Red Planets

The main range of Doctor Who audios gears up for a marathon run of Seventh Doctor stories, starting with a return to the Doctor-Ace-Mel combo that has so far been… well, pretty poor. Is this an improvement?! Well, it’s certainly an improvement over “The Silurian Candidate”, but talk about damning with faint praise! Seriously though, Red Planets is a good story with some fun ideas, but never really kicks into second gear. Let’s take a closer look at any rate…

Official Synopsis:

London, 2017. Except… it isn’t. Berlin, 1961. But it isn’t that either. Not really. Not in the timeline the Doctor knows. Something is very wrong.

While Ace tries to save the life of a wounded British spy, Mel and the Doctor must get to grips with the modern day socialist Republic of Mokoshia. For Mel it feels strangely familiar and ‘right’, which makes the Doctor feel even more uneasy.

Soon, a message from a dark and blood-soaked distant future is on its way… But the Doctor will have to act fast to stop this timeline becoming reality.

And with Ace stranded in an alternate 1961, will saving the Earth end her existence?

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

Cast of Characters:

The Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) – The Doctor is disturbed by a ripple in time, and decides to send Ace to the epicentre while he and Mel take a quick look at the results, but a quick look soon turns into a long stay…

Ace (Sophie Aldred) – Ace has built up enough good will that The Doctor has trusted her to look at the centre of a disturbance in time. Ace is alone, though not for very long…

Mel (Bonnie Langford) – Mel arrives in 2017 alongside the Doctor, where she remembers the good (bad) old times of Mokoshia, long after Britain has fallen under Soviet rule… This apparent fact, however, is rather disturbing for The Doctor…

Tom Elliot (Matt Barber) – Tom has important documents about a rouge Russian missile attack that needs to get to the other side of the Berlin Wall… boy, does it ever need to get across the wall…

Colonel Marsden (Elliot Barber) – Marsden is in the Mokoshian military, and is in charge of uncovering possible dissidents… surprisingly, he’s one of the good ones…

Anna (Genevieve Gaunt) – Anna is part of a resistance movement, but is also an informant for Col. Marsden. Seems like a conflict of interest, but it could be far worse…

Plus more!

The Good:

DW Red Planets Cover

A beautiful cover, taking full advantage of the new layout (and perfectly fitting into my header template! Hooray!)

The realisation of the alternate Earth is well done as we follow The Doctor and Mel, with the latter beginning to remember the new Soviet dominated Britain (now known as Mokoshia) as real, therefore becoming confused as The Doctor says it’s all wrong. It’s a different take on the alternate history style story, where normally The Doctor and his companions are fighting against the “new” history. It leads to some fun interrogation segments between The Doctor and Marsden, as well as some good old fashioned “escape the dominating evil regime” scenes.

When The Doctor, Mel and Marsden arrive on Mars, oh yeah, Mars, right. So throughout the story we hear of the first manned mission to Mars of this timeline leading to the commander finding a base already on the planet emitting a signal. That whole thing wasn’t all that interesting (see below!) but when our temporary trio arrive they find out the base is from the future of this timeline, where Earth is all but wiped clean of humanity due to nuclear war. So throwing a future subplot and a Martian mission subplot on top of an alternate history story was a bit risky, but it actually worked. The base was still sort-of inhabited by the people of the future who came to change the past with their hastily made time travel tech. All irrelevant obviously, as this timeline in general is reverted back to how we know it, but it was a fun twist.

The Bad:

The rest of the story focuses on Ace and her newfound friend Tom, and by friend I mean wounded underground man who had evidence of a rouge Russian missile strike he needed to get across the Berlin Wall. It’s fine, but their interactions are just “don’t move you’re hurt” “Oh you idiot, you’ve moved!” and “I need to get these photos.” “Where are the photos”. It’s just… running around in circles. There were some mildly interesting bits about people being… sucked into some sort of time anomaly dimension… thing, but otherwise, it wasn’t that interesting.

For the first three episodes of the story we hear of the manned mission to Mars and the unnamed commander going in to land, landing and exploring the future capsule. It ends up… pretty irrelevant, as she’s soon killed / possessed by the people of the future, and nothing much comes from that, so… those scenes feel like complete filler, looking back at it, and weren’t very interesting to start with…

By the end, although it had some good moments, it didn’t ever feel like it got going. Doctor and Mel did plenty, but it all ended up coming down to Ace stopping the paradox, and that was done by running across the wall and giving some photos to someone. It had some really good ideas and some good dialogue, but overall I don’t get a feeling I’ll want to return to it…

The Continuity:

Not really anything specifically linking this to any other story, beyond a bit of a cliffhanger leading into the next story, “The Dispossessed”.

Overall Thoughts:

Red Planets was an enjoyable story, full of some really good scenes and ideas, plenty of good dialogue, but I just never felt it got going, and it didn’t really deliver a big bang at the end. It’s good, but I can’t see myself giving it a relisten, so…

3 Star Listen

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