The latest Main Range release, The Dispossessed, has some good ideas tucked in it somewhere, but much like Paradise Towers that it references so much, the good ideas are buried in a bunch of bad, over-the-top acting and in this case, a really clumsy amount of exposition explained via a simple conversation pattern. More info, you say? Read on!
The Doctor, Ace and Mel are caught in a forever night. After crossing the threshold, a strange world awaits them.
An army of tortured souls. A lift that leads to an alien landscape. An alien warlord, left for dead, and willing to do anything to prolong his life… it’s all in a day’s work for the Doctor.
But when his companions become victims of the desperate and powerful Arkallax, the Doctor will have to do battle in a psychic environment where he must make a choice. Save his companions… or himself.
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Cast of Characters:
The Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) – The Doctor has once again found an odd reading on the TARDIS console, and soon he and his companions find themselves in a strange bubble dimension that features… a block of flats. Time to investigate!
Ace (Sophie Aldred) – Ace has seemingly regressed even further than she has recently, going back to the properly immature, old-slang-saying young Ace. How or why? Who cares at this point.
Mel (Bonnie Langford) – Mel has had some bad past experiences with towers of flats, but at least this time there isn’t a bunch of unconvincing robots chasing her! Instead there are weird… zombie-like things… Hooray?
Isobel (Stirling Gallacher) – Isobel’s world was wiped out by Arkallax and his people, and now she after him to finish the score. First thing’s first though, time for a disguise…
Arkallax (Nick Ellsworth) – Arkallax oversaw the destruction of many worlds but managed to escape destruction by using his race’s ability to become pure thought. Sadly for him (though not the rest of the universe) he has become trapped by his own overly-protective technology…
Ruck and Jan (Morgan Watkins and Anna Mitcham) – Ruck and Jan are two normal low-income residents of a block of flats that nears closure… that is until the flats sudden vanish into a different dimension of perpetual night, with them still inside!
Plus more (sort of…)!
Story quality aside, that’s a damn good cover!
There are some good ideas tucked away in here. Arkallax being trapped by a malfunctioning piece of his own tech that has pretty much created an inescapable fortress for him in order “protect him” is a good idea. I also like the simple double act of Isobel being the last of her kind and out for revenge, though her actual portrayal leaves a lot to be desired. The idea that the residents were turned into zombie-like guards by Arkallax’s device robbing them of their brain power and then using what was left is also a good concept.
Sylvester McCoy seems to be having a blast here, rising to meet the poor script and over-egging of the lead villain by going super over-the-top himself. I’m not sure if that’s technically a good thing, but it was at least funny. Oh and it ends with an interesting cliffhanger of Mel having to knock-out The Doctor and Ace and bring the TARDIS to Dogbolter of DWM fame, setting up the next story.
What happened with this script? Looking back on Mark Morris’ past scripts he hasn’t had the best track record, although I remember enjoying “House of Blue Fire”, but this was like a poor fan script in places. Episode 3 especially, which just sees Ace and Mel talk with Arkallax and The Doctor and Ruck talk with Isobel, and the whole thing is just “So, tell us this bit about your backstory” “Okay, this is it in detail” “Oh right, so you mean this simplified version of what you just said?” “Yes, precisely!” over and over again. I’d love someone to count how many times Ace and Mel said “Oh, you mean -”. Was Mr. Morris really unable to write the exposition in any other way?
The opening two episodes are okay, Ruck and Jan are stereotypes and sound like it too, but given the setting I didn’t really have a problem with it, there just wasn’t much to get you to care about them. Isobel though? Yikes! She takes the form of a local woman walking her dog and then proceeds to talk like a silly granny from a sitcom and seems to think calling her personal drone “Droney” is hilarious, or at least our writer did. It ruined all feeling that this was a personal grudge that involved mass genocide and turned it into a gag.
Then episode 4 has your classic “The Doctor battles someone via a mental tug of war” scene, complete with crazy other-the-top shenanigans (and Arkallax literally being the very building itself, which isn’t a bad concept but frankly just thrown out there at the end with little consequence) Overall the story just isn’t very good. It’s lucky its in the same line of stories as “The Silurian Candidate”, as otherwise this would have seemed far worse…
Ace has gone full circle now and is completely her Season 25 self. She uses slang like “Gordon Bennett” and when The Doctor survives the ordeal she runs to him and gives him a hug, saying how happy she is that he made it. No Ace who has faith in The Doctor or anything, it’s a complete time reversal. Mel even let out a few shrieks at a few points, making this feel closer to Season 24 than I’d ever want anything to be…
It’s a shame, it had some good concepts, but it’s just so poorly written that it all falls apart.
There are several references to Seventh Doctor TV horror “Paradise Towers”, which is my opinion is the Doctor Who equivalent of summoning the devil.
Also as mentioned, the story ends of a cliffhanger that ties it straight to “The Quantum Possibility Engine”, the next story in this trilogy.
The Dispossessed is pretty bad. It’s poorly written, sometimes super campy, other times it wants you to take it seriously, and generally a mess. It has some good ideas in there that saves it from a 1, but I wouldn’t recommend you pick it up…