As I’ve already covered “Crime of the Centry” (click here!) Animal is next up, and out of the four “Season 27” Lost Stories it was the one in my head that I remembered quite liking, though I only really knew it as “the one that had Brigadier Bambera in it”, which I guess shows you how likely it is that my memory could be cheating! So was it good (at least comparatively)? Has my opinion changed with a second view… erm, listening? Let’s find out!
Margrave University in 2001, and Raine Creevy is enjoying her first trip into the future.
For the Doctor, there are mysteries to solve: what are the alien creatures imprisoned in the science labs? And what are the true motives of the student Scobie and his followers?
With enemies on all sides, the Doctor teams up with his old friend Brigadier Bambera and the forces of UNIT in a battle for the future of the whole world.
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Animal has a similar set up to an old 70s UNIT story, and not just because it features UNIT but also because there is a focus on animal rights and general activism. The Doctor, Ace and Raine all arrive on Earth in 2001 and end up finding killer plant creatures in a university greenhouse that UNIT are well aware of and are actually keeping contained in there. As weird as it is to say, but that’s just a side plot! Brigadier Bambera (once again played by Angela Bruce!) recruits Ace and Raine to go undercover in an activist group at Margrave University and find out if they’re responsible for the increasingly serious incidents around the campus, specifically revolving around the lab where animals are kept. They do this, get close to the head of these people, Scobie (Anthony Lewis) and his girlfriend Willa (Dannielle Brent) and nearly get killed by the plants. Then the UFO arrives…
Turns out Scobie had not only contacted aliens, but vegan aliens who agree with his viewpoint and demand the captured animals are freed, then test everyone’s blood. Turns out these otherwise pleasant aliens, called the Numlocks for the record, then try and kill anyone who has eaten meat in order to harvest their iron-rich blood to help sustain their otherwise ironless meat-free diet. Scobie is killed when Willa, who turns out was also undercover, puts iron tablets in his drink and they think he’s betrayed them, and then The Doctor eventually lets the killer plant creatures free on board the Numlock ship, killing them all presumably… damn.
It’s an odd plot, even for Doctor Who, and I have no idea how it would’ve came across had the show reached Season 27 in 1990, but there you go. There were some good, tense “escape the confined space with the killer aliens” scenes in the first half.
Brigadier Bambera makes her Big Finish cover debut! …. and her final appearance on a Big Finish cover …. *sigh*
Once the Numlocks arrive the story slows to a crawl, with plenty of “let’s go to the mothership and talk to them… okay, now let’s go back to the University. Right, now let’s go back to the alien ship…” etc. It certainly felt like they had the first half planned out but no idea how to stretch it for a further two episodes. There is also a rather awful cliffhanger of dim-witted UNIT soldier Sgt. Achterberg, who at this point had just been a bit of a goof, tries to imply an undercover Ace tried to attack him so he could shoot her dead as she stood there unarmed, but Brigadier Bambera comes in just in the knick of time. He then gets a bit of a telling off and then returns to being the slightly goofy, dimwhitted UNIT soldier as if nothing happened. Why Ace didn’t kick up more of a stink about nearly being gunned down by one of the Brig’s own men I have no idea!
Also I’m not sure of the message here. The animal rights activists’ head ended up being happy to see aliens arrive and slaughter the meat-eating humans, and the vegen aliens, well, were happy to harvest the meat-eating humans. Normally in these stories the people fighting for a good cause are the good guys! Felt very odd…
Finally The Doctor’s first plan was to call a “Metatraxi Attack Unit” to scare off the Numlocks, which means we had to hear another scene of their late 80s/early 90s surfer bum voice as they refuse to help the man who meddled with their voice translator. Even if this was 1990 and the joke was in-vogue it would be wearing thin by now…
Brigadier Bambera and her era of UNIT has only been featured one other time, the Seventh Doctor TV story “Battlefield”. Why Big Finish hasn’t used her since is a mystery, though some think it may be the actor-cost-to-fan-popularity ratio being not worth it…
As mentioned we hear from the Metatraxi again, last heard in the previous story “Crime of the Century”. Speaking of which, during the course of the story Raine uses the new-fangled internet to find out her father died at some point before the 2001 setting. Her father’s story played out in the two previous stories, “Thin Ice” and “Crime of the Century” again…
Animal isn’t too bad, it has some pluses and it was nice hearing Brigadier Bambera again. Sadly it also has an excruciatingly slow Part 3 and a not-very-good Part 4, so it definitely drops the ball as it goes along. An average score then, but I can safely tell you I won’t be listening to it again, that’s for sure!