After the bit of a disaster that was “Prison in Space” (by which I mean complete disaster), it wasn’t hard for Rosemariners to be good, or at least an improvement. I’m happy to say that although the story didn’t light the world on fire, it was a fun story, and not sexist to the extreme! Hooray! Let’s take a look then, at this story from Donald Tosh, the script editor of several latter First Doctor stories, and is also the man who re-wrote his original script into this audio, so extra authentication!
The Doctor, Jamie and Zoe find themselves on an almost deserted space lab. Earth Station 454 is being closed down, mothballed, its staff relocated. Years of research and co-operation are coming to an end and only distinguished xeno-botanist Professor Arnold Biggs remains on board.
But is there more to the closure than meets the eye? For the operation is being supervised by the Rosemariners of the planet Rosa Damascena. Their terrifying Commander, Rugosa, seems to have something to hide. Who is he? What do the Rosemariners want with the scientists? And what is the secret of Rosedream?
In a world where no one is quite what they seem, and deadly plants lurk around every corner, the Doctor will have to use all his ingenuity just to stay alive… just to stay himself.
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
I really enjoy this story, I think because it really feels like a lost Second Doctor story. There’s something about an old space station, a humanoid enemy and killer plants that made it feel… right. Much like the previous story, Frazer Hines and Wendy Padbury do a great job with narration, as well as playing our lead trio (Jamie and The Doctor for Frazer, Zoe obviously for Wendy), and this time they’re joined by Big Finish favourite David Warner as scientist Arnold Biggs, and Clive Wood plays the quietly sinister lead villain Commander Rugosa. So that’s two extra voices in the production, and it really helps.
So a large spaceship docks with Earth Station 454 and is asking for the exclusive help of Prof. Biggs, as they have a condition known as “Rosedream” that’s caused by the sting of one of the many, many plants on their planet, and indeed their ship. Commander Rugosa admits that they also use it to subdue their most hardened criminals and soon sets up Biggs and The Doctor (who was caught with the Professor and pretended to be an assistant) with a drugged assistant and a lab. Straight away you don’t trust Rugosa, Clive Wood gives him the best snide evil voice ever. Jamie and Zoe explore the Rosemariners ship and find the hypnotised and drugged crew of 454 (apart from a lunchlady who accidentally slipped by) and try to find The Doctor to tell him.
There’s a great cliffhanger of Jamie nearly being killed by the deadly Rosedream-inducing rosa toxicaera plant and a revelation that Rogusa was actually a convict that had escaped being put into Rosedream and overthrew his jailer (who was the drugged assistant helping The Doctor and Biggs) and he wanted the cure to the ailment so he could free his cohorts. A tense stand-off with The Doctor being held hostage by Rugosa ends with the commander accidentally injecting himself with Rosedream rather than the cure, and the renewed jailer thanks them for their hard work.
That’s a basic summery (missing out one character I’ll mention below) but for a four parter it flies by. It really fits the era and there’s just enough unique voicework to make you forget this isn’t a narrated recording of an actual lost story.
Love the design of Rugosa… don’t know if they would’ve been able to pull it off in the 60s, mind you…
The one bad I have to say stood out is Colbert, the Chief Executive Officer of 454 and a person who gets cloned by Rugosa and then fed to the deadly rosa plant at the start. The Rosemariner copy of Colbert keeps what would have been the original character’s French accent and is voiced by Wendy Padbury in the story, and… wow. It’s so over-the-top and exaggerated that it would make Looney Tunes blush and completely took me out of several key scenes, sadly. I’m not aksing for a super realistic accent, but better than “school friends doing their best offensive effort” accent…
It’s said that Rosa Toxicaera was created by The Daleks on Kembel, which is a reference to “The Daleks’ Master Plan”, the First Doctor TV story that also featured a killer plant called Varga plants (it was also script edited by one Donald Tosh!)
There’s also talk of the fate of the Mary Celeste, which The Doctor mentions was the cause of the Daleks. This happened in First Doctor TV story “The Chase”.
I really enjoyed The Rosemariners. It lived up to the billing of being a Lost Story beyond just being literally a story that was at one point on track to being made but wasn’t, it felt like a story of the time that was brought back. Admittedly, it isn’t a lost classic we were robbed of experiencing, it would be somewhere in the middle of the Second Doctor’s TV stories if you were ranking them, but it’s still a fun two hours, and a breath of fresh air after Prison in Space…