The One Doctor is a bit of an odd-ball in this Christmas specials look, as it technically doesn’t have anything to do with Christmas. It was released in December 2001, but that’s about it… except it’s clearly a light-hearted comedy affair set up to be Big Finish’s “Christmas Panto”. For that reason I feel it deserves to be here on this list, unlike the next year’s release “Bang Bang-a-Boom”, which while more light-hearted felt more like a Star Trek parody than anything Pantomime-y. ANYWAY, so let’s have a look at the first of five audio Christmas offerings in a row!
When the evil Skelloids launch an attack upon the seventeen worlds of the Generios system, its peace-loving inhabitants face total destruction.
So it’s lucky that the Doctor, that famous traveller in time and space, is in the area, and that he, along with his pretty young assistant, Sally-Anne, manages to defeat the deadly creatures and save the day.
But now it looks as though the Doctor’s luck has run out.
Who is the mysterious, curly-haired stranger, intent on causing trouble? What role does the feisty redhead Melanie play in his scheme? And what have they to do with the sinister alien cylinder approaching Generios?
One thing is certain: for the Doctor and Sally-Anne, there’s deadly danger ahead…
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
It was very rare to see an actor appear on the cover who didn’t already have photos from the actual show, especially when this was released!
The opening moments would be interesting for a story even if it wasn’t played for laughs, as The Doctor and Mel arrive in the Generios system in response to a distress call but find a celebration instead. The Doctor and his companion had already arrived and defeated the enemies, and all was good with the world again. The Doctor was already upset about being in this time period as it was so late in the life of the galaxy that all races were at peace and there was no conflict, so to find a rare bit of action in the time period and having been beaten to it grates on his nerves more than usual. That being said, The Doctor is also confused because his “hair normally stands on end” when he’s in the presence of another self, so he decides to investigate…
Sure enough “The Doctor” is actually a fake, a man named Banto Zame (Christopher Biggins) and his “companion” Sally-Anne (Clare Buckfield) is in on the scam. Basically they use technological fakery to convince planets that they’re being invaded and then use the old folk tale of The Doctor to make people believe they’ve been saved by the legendary hero… then bashfully ask for financial recompense. The actual Doctor is having none of this, but as Banto is ironically having him ejected for being a fake an ominous and potentially evil Cylinder (Matt Lucas) arrives in the sky and says that if the three great treasures of the Generios system aren’t brought to him…it? then it will destroy all seven planets (then proceeds to destroy Generios III as a rather extreme example). Banto believes this is the new faker’s mock invasion, but once it becomes clear it’s not he tries to scarper, but The Doctor forces him and Sally-Anne along for the ride, using Banto’s “STARDIS” (which looks like a portaloo) to short-range teleport to the actual TARDIS to go on a treasure hunt.
I know I say this every time I do an older audio review, but I do miss these DWM advert mini-comics…
The four of them split up, with The Doctor and Sally-Anne searching for Mentos (Nicholas Pegg), an A.I. that can literally answer any question, while Banto and Mel arrive in a warehouse with only an item number to go on. Mentos is stuck on a Weakest Link parody show (this was made in 2001, to be fair to it…) and can only leave the show when it gets a question wrong, which is impossible. The Doctor even asks what he wished for on his birthday many years ago and Mentos still gets it right. Luckily Sally-Anne accidentally asks the question “What does Mentos not know?” and Mentos couldn’t find an answer, so it gets powered down and The Doctor and Sally-Anne leave. Mel and Banto are soon nearly killed by some warehouse robots until they find out what item they’re after, so instead allow them to live if they can assemble it. Turns out the item is called “The Shelves of Infinity” and are literally infinite, so it’s impossible to complete putting it up. Mel momentarily stumps the robots by asking if they’ve ever seen the shelves assembled, and if not how can they accurately claim they haven’t finished putting them up? … and then runs to the TARDIS with the shelves and Banto.
The last of the three items was a large diamond being guarded by a very lonely Spraxis Jelloid (also Matt Lucas) who is waiting for an entertainment system to be delivered, and had been waiting for it for two million years. After being momentarily eaten by the Jelloid, The Doctor asks it politely to turn off the security system but the single-celled organism doesn’t want to leave because as soon as he leaves he’s going to miss the delivery man, it’s what always happens! The Doctor and Mel promise to meet the delivery man if he arrives, so the Jelloid does as requested and… The Doctor and Mel miss the delivery man (who was the size of a fly) but promise to collect the entertainment system direct from the warehouse and leave with the jewel, leading to the Jelloid to sing a brief song about how lonely it is… As the TARDIS arrives with the three treasures Banto tries to take all the credit as the one and only Doctor, which the actual Doctor allows because he’s figured it out: the Cylinder knew only The Doctor could collect the treasures, so kidnaps “The Doctor” as he was an enemy of his race. Sally-Anne is heralded as a surviving hero by the people and The Doctor and Mel leave, claiming to help Banto out “at some point”, but frankly I’m more concerned about the Jelloid getting his telly…
Nothing. The story hits its Douglas Adams-style sarcastic surrealism dead on and carries the genuinely funny momentum throughout its four parts. One of the best stories to put on if you want a laugh.
Another, suitably more comedic piece of artwork from Doctor Who Magazine a few issues later.
Nothing super obvious. Mentos wonders if The Doctor was going to try one of those “fox the computer conundrums…the last thing I said was false and all that”. This has been used to take out several A.Is in the show’s history, with the “last thing I said was false” specifically being used to take down B.O.S.S. in the Third Doctor TV story “The Green Death”.
Also The Doctor will go on to meet another impostor version of himself later in this marathon in the Tenth Doctor Christmas story “The Next Doctor”, though it’s in a completely different way!
The One Doctor is a little bit of fun at Christmas. A silly story really well written and acted by everyone involved, and one that still holds up nearly 20 years after it was made. Highly recommended if you’re looking for a good laugh.