Doctor Who: Respond to All Calls – Planet of the End Review

The second volume of the Ninth Doctor adventures comes to a close with another really fun hour-long story that feels very much of the time but also uses the audio format well on top of nailing the tone and characterisation of The Doctor. Also aliens in business suits! Let’s take a look…

Synopsis:

The Doctor arrives on a mausoleum world for sightseeing and light pedantry, correcting its planetary records. The resident AI has other ideas.

Deep within a tomb, something stirs. Occasus is the last resting place of a species far too dangerous to exist. And the Doctor is its way back.

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

The Good:

Great cover, especially the original designs for both Fred and the Incorporation member in the middle (both of these things explained below!)

Right from the beginning I really liked the premise of the story as The Doctor arrives on a planet-wide graveyard to long-forgotten races and encounters a robot (voiced by Margaret Clunie) whose A.I. has started to gain more personality due to countless millennia alone (very Holly-like, for any Red Dwarf fans out there!) Dubbing this robot Fred The Doctor roams the planet searching for a distress signal he received all the while the security firm looking after the planet is planning on coming down and hitting The Doctor with a special type of gun that freezes people in place forever. After correcting some of the information on the races featured on the planet the Doctor and Fred arrive at the source of the distress call: a giant gold pyramid that seemingly moves like its breathing. Sacristan Hinge (Akshay Khanna), the man from the security company, arrives and ends up shooting the Doctor in place just as the Time Lord figures out what’s happened: the distress call was a fake, planned to make this very scenario happen.

The Doctor’s mind enters the golden pyramid and there he meets what remains of an ancient race known only as “The Incorporation” (the two main members of which are voiced by Jan Francis and Nick Fletcher) They wish to use The Doctor’s Artron energy to trigger their return to the land of the living with the added bonus of taking over The Doctor’s body and using his reputation and “I.P” to make lots of marketing money. The Doctor refuses and spends many years with his body frozen in place and his mind going through mental torture, eventually he agrees to a deal where they can have his body and Artron energy in small chunks in exchange with him being allowed to watch the sunset (or sunrise… can’t remember…) each day, using this time to blink a binary message to Fred on the day when she just happened to be there. The Doctor’s message allows Fred to construct something that returns his mind to his body, now with long hair and beard much to his distress.

The Incorporation have already gathered enough energy to return to life so The Doctor and Fred try to find another race to bring back in their place but the nearby options aren’t great so they settle on a dead rabbit. Their plan is foiled by a now much older Sacristan, who apparently made a deal with the Incorporation long ago, but when all seems lost The Doctor redirects the Artron energy into Fred instead, bringing her to life and keeping the Incorporation locked in gold (as well as turning Sacristan into a gold statue himself). The Doctor heads off, unable to answer Fred’s query as to whether she can regenerate or not…

The Bad:

Not a lot. The Incorporation were as one-the-nose as you can get for a parody of heartless big money corporations and as such were very plain and not very compelling, but the whole story around them, particularly on Occasus, was good enough to hide that fault for the most part…

The Continuity:

Funny to see they actual created two Incorporation designs for the different covers, rather than using the same one for both (like everything else on the overall cover)

Not a lot. When Sacristan was trying to convince Fred that The Doctor was actually a menace who destroys monuments and tombs he mentions the Tombs on Telos (Second Doctor TV classic “The Tomb of the Cybermen”) and the ancient city of Exxilon (Third Doctor TV story “Death to the Daleks”, plus a few Nicholas Briggs-penned audios…) While Fred is running down a list of possible nearby races to resurrect with the Artron energy one of those races is The Family of Blood, who turn up in the Tenth Doctor TV two-parter “Human Nature / The Family of Blood”.

But that’s all, just a few name drops. Well, unless you want me to list greedy big business parodies that have appeared in Doctor Who, but I haven’t got all day…

Overall Thoughts:

“Planet of the End” was great fun, with some unique ideas mixed with some very traditional ideas and another great performance from Christopher Eccleston, including some not insignificant time jumps and settings that would’ve been hard to pull off on TV (well, still would on a BBC TV budget!) Sure the villains were dull as dishwater, but that doesn’t affect things too much. An enjoyable end to a very fun boxset.

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