DW: The Quantum Possibility Engine Review

DW The Quantum Possibility Engine

While this TARDIS team has had more misses than hits, The Quantum Possibility Engine is at least a fun story, more comic book silliness (with some actually well-written political satire) than standard Who, and given it has Dogbolter from from comics, that’s a fitting decision. Let’s take a closer look then, at the end of this most recent Doctor-Ace-Mel trilogy…

Official Synopsis:

The Doctor and Ace are locked up. The TARDIS is gone. Things just couldn’t get worse, could they?

Of course they could. Things can always get worse — the new President of the Solar System, Josiah W Dogbolter, didn’t get where he is in life without learning that. That’s why he has a Quantum Possibility Engine. It’s a wonderful machine, creating a wonderful Solar System. And with this wonderful device, he can bring happiness and peace to all.

Possibly.

Either that or tear the universe to shreds, it’s hard to be sure which.

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

Cast of Characters:

The Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) – The last thing The Doctor remembers is Mel activating some sort of sonic device that knocked him out, and then to make matters worse, the first thing he sees when he wakes up is Narvin…

Ace (Sophie Aldred) – Ace is in the same boat, well, in remembering Mel’s betrayal as the last thing she saw, less the waking up to Narvin part. Ace is in a less forgiving mood than the Doctor, too…

Mel (Bonnie Langford) – Mel, thanks to hanging out with Glitz for too long, has amassed a rather sizeable debt and has had to make a deal with the unpleasant Dogbolter  to try and solve it. Part of the contract? Deliver The Doctor’s TARDIS…

Narvin (Sean Carlsen) – Narvin is head of the CIA, as in Gallifrey’s Celestial Intervention Agency, rather than the admittedly similar organisation in the States. He has arrived thanks to some unlawful usage of TARDIS technology in the area…

Josiah W. Dogbolter (Toby Longworth) – Dogbolter was a top industrialist, and now a successful politician, thanks in part to his Quantum Possibility Engine that allows him to make subtle changes in the timeline to retroactively make all his political promises come true…

Hob (Wayne Forester) – Hob is Dogbolter’s trusted right hand man, trusted because he’s a robot that therefore can never betray him… not willingly, anyway…

The Krasi (Jules de Jongh and others) – The Krasi are a race of galactic conquerors that value their public image over all other things…

Plus more!

The Good:

DW The Quantum Possibility Engine Cover

Nice cover, though Dogbolter looks … unconvincing, to put in nicely…

While there is a lot to like about this story, let’s start with Dogbolter and his trusty robot sidekick Hob, both of which come straight from the pages of Doctor Who Magazine. They’re perfectly cast here, with Dogbolter sounding exactly like he’s from an 80s or early 90s cartoon series, and Hob likewise sounding like your classic snivelling henchman. They have some properly funny moments, especially Dogbolter and his sighing sarcasm and general classic greedy businessman lines.

That reminds me, there are some well written digs at modern society here (emphasis on well written, I’m looking at you Silurian Candidate!), Dogbolter being a horrible businessman who has risen to a top political position, not through use of the Quantum Possibility Engine, but because he simply told the population what they wanted to hear before the election, and the Krasi, who record three or four different reactions to each question to make sure their imagine is kept in the right light when any footage of them airs. They’re all funny, and kind of a sad reflection at the same time… in other words, good political satire that didn’t get in the way of telling a funny Doctor Who story featuring a frog-man ruling the solar system.

The Doctor, Ace and Narvin (who I only have passing knowledge of thanks to his appearances in the Dark Eyes series, I have yet to tackle the Gallifrey series in general…) spend most of the story on Earth after having been re-configured to fit into society, somehow. The Doctor became a cleaner who was barely hanging on to his small flat until he lost his job, Ace became a policewoman who was dating a TV personality, and Narvin became a creator of kitchen appliances. There were some funny bits, especially The Doctor as a fun and pleasant homeless man (which sounds wrong, but there were some funny scenes!) and Ace having to say goodbye to a love she never really loved was at least a bit of drama. It also meant The Doctor never actually interacted with Dogbolter, which keeps everything in continuity.

Overall the funny use of the titular machine (signified by a tape rewinding sound that then lead to a new version of a scene you just heard that then puts things in Dogbolter’s favour) and the more Saturday Morning Cartoon feel made this a joy to listen to. The Krasi were amusingly self-centred and possibly worse that Dogbolter, so hearing them get bested by the Frog-man was also a good addition to an ending that otherwise would have just had Dogbolter continue to be ruler of the solar system, which is technically a bad ending, when you think about it…

The Bad:

The only thing I didn’t really like was Mel in this story. She got in trouble with an alien race and made a deal with Dogbolter to try and save herself, the terms of which were to captured the TARDIS? Why didn’t she just ask The Doctor for help? Why did she think giving a greedy businessman a time machine and the instructions to use it would be a better idea? Then she watches Hob seemingly kill The Doctor, Ace and Narvin before she saves herself by revealing she has control over him thanks to a virus she created? Huh? Did it coincidentally activate during those few seconds in between The Doctor and co. vanishing and Hob giving the order to shoot her?

She then spends the rest of the story humiliating Hob, running away from Hob, and then crawling around some vents before finding out that the Doctor and Ace were still alive and finally doing something to help (and thus give The Doctor a chance to save the day). It’s no wonder Ace is so reluctant to forgive her… what a series of stupid things she did…

The Continuity:

Obviously, the first few minutes of the story are the last few minutes of last month’s story, “The Dispossessed”. There is also the fact Mel travelled with notorious scammer Sabalom Glitz, which was her original exit from TV in the story “Dragonfire”.

Josiah W. Dogbolter (and indeed Hob) first appeared in the DWM story “The Moderator”, and would make a couple of other appearances both in the comics and once on audio, though never actually meeting The Doctor face-to-face beyond the first story, something this audio also continues. When they finally do meet once more in person, the Twelfth Doctor finally brings down his empire in the story “The Stockbridge Showdown”.

Narvin comes from the Gallifrey spin-off range, as well as the third Dark Eyes boxset. That’s about all I can say about him!

Overall Thoughts:

The Quantum Possibility Engine is a fun two hours, full of well written humour both straight up comedy and satire. The Doctor and Ace get to do some different things, and Mel… acts more stupid that she often did on the TV show. Still, it’s definitely a highlight of this TARDIS team, though that’s kind of damning with faint praise, really…

4 Star Listen

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