DW: The Sinestran Kill Review

dw the sinestran kill

Series 8 of the Fourth Doctor Adventures is a significant event as it features Tom Baker’s Doctor getting a brand new companion in the form of Ann Kelso, and it’s not long before the two strike up a good back and forth. The rest of the story is an odd mix of 70s police show and general British gangland stuff, but with a heavy alien presence, obviously! Let’s take a look…

Synopsis:

When the Doctor decides to trace an anomalous energy signature on twentieth century Earth, he stumbles into an assassination attempt.

Gangland thugs are trying to murder a seemingly innocent shopkeeper, and it’s only the intervention of the Doctor and Ann Kelso – a WPC who happens to be on the scene – that prevents a tragedy.

But why do the gangsters want the shopkeeper dead? And what does this have to do with alien technology?

The first stages of a grand conspiracy are about to be revealed. And finding the answers will take Ann Kelso on a journey like no other.

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

Cast of Characters:

The Doctor (Tom Baker) – The Doctor has left Leela and K9 on Gallifrey, and now begins to travel alone… at least until he get around to constructing the new K9 he has in a box, not to mention when an odd signal suddenly appears on the TARDIS console…

Ann Kelso (Jane Slavin) – Ann is a WPC in London, and is used to patrolling rough parts of town, though Tony Reynolds’ little shop is not where she expected to find the worst trouble of her career, or start the biggest adventure of her life…

Tony Reynolds (Leon Williams) – Tony Reynolds runs a shop, and is perfectly nice and innocent! … because he is in fact an alien who is being hidden away from the deadly Sinestran Syndicate… plus, I say innocent…

Kathy and Hugo Blake (Glynis Barber & Ewan Bailey) – Two infamous London gangsters, the Blakes are soon mind controlled by a Lemuren, cousins to the Sinestrans, with the intent to kill “Tony Reynolds”.

DCI Scott Neilson (Frank Skinner) – Scott was once on special duty and therefore found out about UNIT and what they deal with. This comes in handy when The Doctor and his TARDIS arrives in the middle of his investigation…

Plus more!

The Good:

dw the sinestran kill cover

Good artwork, especially making Frank Skinner look as unimpressed as possible, which is in keeping with his character (and not me insulting him or anything…)

As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, The Doctor and Ann get on well almost right away, with Ms. Kelso being saved by The Doctor and shown his miraculous craft, but still focusing on her job. As they meet back up she is constantly by his side, impressing The Doctor with not just her actions, but her ability to retain her sense of humour even in bad situations. It was really well written, with various moments where you can hear The Doctor being impressed, almost verbally ticking a box in a companion “must have” checklist. Some people have mentioned how she is a lot like Sarah Jane Smith in that she’s a friendly, normal companion, where as The Doctor and Leela were more mentor and student, and The Doctor and Romana were on equal terms as intelligent Time Lords, and they’re right. I’m already looking forward to hearing more from the pair.

As for the rest of the story? Well, it’s fine. It has a lot of intentional references to 70s police shows, with the Blakes and their gang easily pictured wearing turtleneck jumpers and flatcaps, and Frank Skinner’s DCI Scott Neilson fitting the dry, unimpressed leader role perfectly. It was a good idea to have him familiar with UNIT and The Doctor, that meant he could act all annoyed at it all happening rather than freaking out, which made for a lot more funny moments.

The actual alien part was fine, had a few twists. So “Tony Reynolds” is actually an alien in a sort of galactic relocation program to keep him away from the deadly Sinestran Syndicate, but they’ve found him and use one of their “cousins” the Lemurens to mind-control the local crime family to kill him. The Doctor manages to break the mind control so the Lemuren kills the gangsters and Sinestrans inhabit their dead bodies, while at the same time it’s soon revealed that “Tony” was actually a hitman and an uncontrollable killer… when he’s not being controlled by a bracelet on his wrist (so I guess he is controllable… you know what I mean!)

In a big showdown on the roof, Tony and the Lemuren seemingly kill each other when the latter tries to take control of the former, and the Sinestrans are brought to justice after The Doctor held their real bodies as bargaining chips. It was good, nothing wrong with it, and there was mentions of a bigger force behind these incidents, a “Syndicate” of unknown origin that will be the key linking narrative for this series.

The Bad:

As with a lot of these stories, given their length, some things weren’t well fleshed out. The Sinestrans and Lemurens are species that are gangsters, all of them, which means no need to delve any deeper. Likewise Tony’s race, which I can’t remember the name of (sorry!) is a race of known hitmen and killers, so that explains his background quickly. Throw in the fact that the Sinestrans are taken to a “Justice Planet” and you can see that writer Andrew Smith wanted to concentrate on the introduction of Ann and setting up her run with The Doctor rather than anything else, and so he should, but it was a little too lazy at times.

The Continuity:

Not really any continuity to be had in this one. All the alien races are new to this story, as are all the characters. Obviously it’s the start of something bigger, but that will be expanded on in the next bunch of releases for this season, so… Yeah. Check out “Planet of the Drashigs” for the next chapter!

Overall Thoughts:

The Sinestran Kill may be weak on the alien race backstories, but it’s main focus was on what was most important: introducing Ann Kelso and having her eventually leave with The Doctor, and that was done very well. This new Doctor-companion combination was an instant hit, and I’m looking forward to hearing more as I tackle this first boxset…

4 Star Listen

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