Doctor Who: The New Adventures Volume 1: The Jabari Countdown & The Dread of Night Review

DW NA Vol1 P2

The last half of the first volume of the New Adventures contains what I feel is the best story of the bunch, and possibly the worst. Well, worst is harsh because it’s still perfectly good, just more generic and predictable than the other three… Want to know what I’m going on about? Read on!

Synopsis (of “The Jabari Countdown”):

Arriving on a mysterious island, stranded with a group of mathematicians, the Doctor and his companions find themselves on the fringes of the Second World War. Trapped with only each other and an unknown threat, the group must work together to solve a puzzle greater than just one world’s war.

Synopsis (of “The Dread of Night”):

When a grieving household offers the TARDIS travellers shelter from the weather, the Doctor, Chris and Roz find themselves exposed to even less hospitable conditions. A sinister presence stalks the house, plaguing its inhabitants… and only the truth can free them.

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

Cast of Characters:

The Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) – The Doctor loves to solve a good mystery, but why he and his companions soon find themselves on a boat of soldiers and mathematicians in the middle of World War Two is a problem that won’t be so easy to solve…

Roz Forrester (Yasmin Bannerman) – Roz is not a stranger to solving a murder, but the long road to get there and the possible death surrounding it this time isn’t exactly normal…

Chris Cwej (Travis Oliver) – Chris is very easy-going at the best of times, both in terms of still liking a good game of hide and seek even when travelling in time and space, and romantically as well…

Alpha Wheeler (Janine Duvitski) – Alpha is struggling with the Jabari, and has decided to enlist some Earthlings, though things might not be quite as straight forward as her adventisements…

Eleanor Blake (Franchi Webb) – Eleanor is a transsexual in a time period where that is very much a problem. Still, her genius is apparently needed for the war effort, so who is she to argue?

Isabel and Annabel (Rhian Blundell and Elaine Fellows) – A pair of sisters who have recently lost their mother…or at least one of them has…

Nurse Hooley (Melanie Kilburn) – Nurse Hooley is a harsh and strict woman, but she still has the best intentions for her patients… or patient, now…

Plus more!

The Good:

DW NA Vol1 Cover

I see “The Dread of Night” is the only story not to be featured on the cover…

The Jabari Countdown was a good little story. It had a solid mystery to begin with, with The Doctor and co. meeting an eclectic group of people on a boat, and then that boat crashing onto a strange island with a stranger house. They soon discover a dead body with four numbers written on it, and a horrible creature stalking the halls, as you do! Kindly old lady Alpha is soon revealed to be not only an alien (with the house itself her ship) but the person who put the adverts in the newspaper that drew all the mathematicians there in the first place. The war effort they were signing up for wasn’t World War II, it was Alpha’s war effort.

Little by little the other characters start spouting numbers randomly in the middle of conversations, or breaking down entirely, until The Doctor figures out the connection between all of them: salt. Salt is what soon kills (or severely damages) the Jabari creature, and everyone is saved. During the course of the story Chris and transsexual Eleanor get close romantically, but upon hearing that it’s a good long while before the people of Earth come close to accepting who she is, she goes off with Alpha instead. There were a lot of fun twists and turns, and all the extras were quite well fleshed out, especially  given the short runtime. Definitely a highlight of the set.

The Dread of Night is a perfectly serviceable story. The Doctor, Roz and Chris end up running to a spooky old house in the middle of a thunderstorm and find what few residents are left are being stalked by a beast as the youngest of the household is seemingly driven mad by grief. It has a good, moody atmosphere, and The McCoy Doctor is at his subdued and sneaking-around best, but there is an overriding feeling of been there, done that. There wasn’t any real original spin, as you’ll see down below…

The Bad:

The only real flaw in the Jabari Countdown is that one of the central plots is based around Chris and Eleanor getting together, but in just one hour there isn’t enough time to set it up believably. Their fated goodbye on the beach just doesn’t have any impact due to this…

The Dread of Night was far too cliché. They did a good job with the atmosphere, but the problem was that there were four people in the house, an innocent cook, an unpleasant and seemingly untrustworthy nurse, and two sisters, one of whom is ill. We’re driven so much to suspect the nurse that we immediately know it can’t be her because it’s too obvious, so we then shift our focus on the nice innocent cook, but she’s killed almost at the start of the story, so the only other option is the sister, Annabel. Turns out she was an entity from another dimension that was feeding off of Isobel’s grief and has created a psychic field that made everyone (but Isobel) believe she was her sister. The creature that was attacking was seemingly Isobel’s childish drawings of her friend come to life, which is something else we’ve seen before in Who (and my God the cliché of a giggling child sound when it was around… definitely negative points there!), the two bizarre anomalies eventually cancelling each other out when they touch.

It’s just with the exception of the exact details of what made Annabel responsible, everything else was extremely predictable. Hell, when the TARDIS dematerialized at the end of the episode, I said to myself “I bet they’re going to play the giggling child sound again before the credits” and sure enough, there it was…

The Continuity:

Not much to be said, really. Eleanor from “Jabari Countdown” having a terrible secret that turns out to be something not so shamed nowadays is similar  to Olivier Harper, the turns-out-to-be-gay companion of the First Doctor from three audios, starting with “The Perpetual Bond”.

While I’m not going to list off all Doctor Who stories that feature the creepy haunted house theme, I will mention the Tenth Doctor TV dud “Fear Her”, which saw a troubled child’s drawings come to life thanks to other-dimensional energy.

Overall Thoughts:

As I said in the opening paragraph, The New Adventures Volume 1’s best story is the Jabari Countdown, and the weakest is The Dread of Night, so this half of the set shows the best and worst. Still, as the first two were also good, it’s a good boxset overall. Three out of four being hits is a good score really, especially as you might get more out of Episode 4 if you’re less familiar with the tropes used than I am…

The Jabari Countdown:

4 Star Listen

The Dread of Night:

3 Star Listen

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