Doctor Who: The Dark Husband
Big Finish audio adventures
I'm sure that the vast majority of people watching Doctor Who now have little interest in the previous incarnation of the show and are blissfully unaware that it is carrying on in the form of audio dramas produced by Big Finish featuring original cast from Doctors 5 to 8.
Don't be fooled by the professional look and the official BBC license; this is definitely a fan production. I've listened to a few and, although having their own continuity, are not generally obsessed by it (1) They are for the most part okay, with rare bouts of originality (2), but for the most part don't exactly push the envelope.
Which brings me to one I've been listening to today. It's called The Dark Husband, and features the 7th Doctor (3), Ace (4) and some other guy they seem to have picked up along the way. I should probably wait until I've finished it before commenting, but I'm not sure that's ever going to happen.
The first episode is so arch you could mistake it for the Colosseum. So many lampshades are hung about every Who cliché they are enacting that they must be the best lit studio on the planet. And yet the plot, such as it is, involves two factions of the same race who are in an eons long conflict for no very good reason, and have no distinguishing features other than one side is very hairy and have unsophisticated tastes while the other side is hairless and highly sophisticated. And then the Doctor and co. show up and each side assumes on the basis of no information at all that they are spies for the other and attempts to kill them without even a gesture toward interrogation before we reach the actual plot and we can get out of generic land before I fall asleep.
Honestly, it's so painfully Who by the numbers. After all the self-awareness in the opening scenes' dialogue you'd think the writer might be attempting to subvert the form, but I haven't spotted any sign of it so far. The conflict that the Doctor is here to resolve barely qualifies as two-dimensional. And the Doctor himself is so smug you want to kick his arse. He's deliberately and meanly dropped Ace into yet another adventure after promising her a vacation. And the conflict has been going on for centuries, with millions dead on each side, which leaves you wondering why the Doctor didn't turn up a bit sooner if he really wanted to help.
And then the Doctor appears to know more or less about what's going on depending on the needs of the plot. On the one hand, it transpires that he has deliberately arrived at this time and place (5), and appears to know more than what is going on than just about anybody, including the inhabitants, who are doing the old "We no longer remember the reason for our war or the details of the rituals you have just invoked", and at other times is claiming that he's just working from some information that he picked up off a war memorial after they arrived (6), and has no idea where it's leading.
Halfway into episode two I'm wishing that the writer would make up their mind whether the Doctor knows more about what's happening than anyone else or that he's making it up as he goes along, and stop trying to do both. I don't really care about the aliens as they are so stupid that they've been killing each other for centuries without knowing why, and without any noticeable success, and have no culture other than is required for the plot anyway. Really, the only thing of interest is the business about how a marriage could stop such a conflict, and who the bride is. And that's only interesting because it's been made into such a mystery by having nobody present have any idea about what's going on.
Other than this hideously contrived mystery, it's so generic and yet at the same time so heavy on the meta-commentary that I may never get to the end of it. How it can be so smug about cliches it's perpetuating without doing anything original with them is so annoying that I may be forced to destroy the discs in a very creative way. But if I can keep the irritation down I might just keep going to the end in case they actually do throw an original twist into the story.
And if they don't, at least I get to go "see? I knew it."
1. except for the sequence involving the 8th Doctor starting with episode 50, but that seems to have been handily resolved now. I have no clue how.
2. like the one story that's on two CDs that can be listened to in any order.
3. sylvester Mc Coy
4. who has been stuck as a teenager for the last twenty years.
5. so much so that he deceived his companions into wanting to go there.
6. somehow, the inhabitants have entirely failed to notice this, despite it being on a mural on the side of the only landmark on the planet.