After the downbeat Death in Blackpool we reunite The Doctor and Lucie, along with Susan and Alex (The Doctor’s great grandson), to have a much more upbeat Christmas Special. While not devoid of drama by any means, specifically how The Doctor treats Alex, it will still leave you with a smile on your face. So let’s take a look!
Christmas is a time for family, they say — which is why the Doctor has invited his grand-daughter Susan and great-grandson Alex for Christmas dinner in his time and space machine. But who, or what, is the spectre at their yuletide feast?
Venturing deep into the dark heart of the TARDIS, Susan uncovers her past, Alex is told his future — and the Doctor finds himself caught in a deadly dangerous present!
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
That image certainly grabs your attention!
While there is a lot of humour and fun times, I want to first point out an interesting crease in The Doctor’s personality. Alex is his Great Grandson, and he becomes obsessed with him taking over from him, and is actually almost angry at the revelation that Alex has less than 10% Gallifreyan DNA, saying it “must be a mistake”. He has a room all ready for Alex and expects him to be interested in travelling in the TARDIS, and even goes as far as to desperately try to contact Alex via telepathy, despite Susan informing him that he very much takes from his father’s side and is basically human, no telepathy, no regeneration, nothing. It’s an interesting flaw in The Doctor’s personality, and hearing his disappointment when Alex, and Lucie, head back to 22nd Century Earth for a trip around Europe was like a father finding out that his son doesn’t want to follow in his chosen career path, not angry, and certainly doesn’t let the son know, but he’s just a bit disappointed… Makes The Doctor a bit more relatable, and fallible.
The rest of the story is focused on everyone doing their best to have a “nice family Christmas”, despite being in the TARDIS and being under attack by a large, floating killer fish from Quinnis. There are little fun time travel bits, including The Doctor snared by the fish appearing in front of people (or just his voice travelling) and then seeing those events actually happen later in the story, that sort of thing, due to the fish diving in and out of time like a … well, fish in water. It turns out the fish was in Susan’s room this whole time, and The Doctor bringing her room back as a present led to it appearing. Alex was shown how to control the dimensions of the rooms and corridors in the TARDIS to direct and trap it before releasing it back into the wilds of space, but the Doctor, as mentioned, gets stuck on the thing. Lucie manages to pull him free in time for Alex to trap it, and then the two release it successfully.
Apart from that is just some nice dialog and moments based around classic Christmas stuff (funny stories around the dinner table, people receiving socks as gifts, that sort of thing). It’s certainly much more of a fun Christmas story than the previous effort…
The only bad that springs to mind, I’m afraid, is Alex. Or rather Jake McGann, who plays him. I get having The Doctor’s great grandson played by The Doctor’s actor’s actual son sounds like a great idea on paper, but it’s not when the son in question can’t act. All his delivery is very much school play-like: he’s memorised the lines and can read them out, but it all sounds the same. Very little emotion, even with dramatic stuff going on around him… Ah well, I’m sure Paul had a great time recording with his son, and that the important thing?
I think this was another CD in-lay image, but I mean it’s just the cover but in red… Ah well, allows me to put another picture in the review at least!
Susan’s son Alex first appeared in the Eighth Doctor audio “An Earthly Child”, while Lucie Miller rejoined The Doctor in the previous two-parter “Deimos / The Resurrection of Mars”.
The fish came from the planet Quinnis, which Susan and the first incarnation of The Doctor visited in the companion chronicle suitably titled “Quinnis”. There are several mentions of the disastrous previous attempt at a Christmas get together Lucie and The Doctor had in “Death in Blackpool”, and finally, The Doctor meets back up with Lucie, Alex and Susan in the big two part finale to this run of Eighth Doctor stories titled “Lucie Miller / To The Death”.
I’ll also mention Fledershrews, a type of Bat that lives in the TARDIS. They’re mentioned in this story to have been attacked by the fish, and first appeared in the Eighth Doctor audio “Nevermore”, though they retroactively appeared earlier in the Doctor’s life in the Seventh Doctor’s TARDIS in “Black and White” and were mentioned by the Fifth Doctor in “And You Will Obey Me”.
Relative Dimensions is far more like the kind of Christmas special I enjoy. Plenty of festive fun, but still some heart and purpose to the story. Sadly Jake McGann’s acting (or lack thereof) lets the side down a bit, but it’s still an enjoyable story, and far more the kind of thing I’d happily stick on at Christmas than the previous effort…