Three’s a Crowd, by Colin Brake
Earth Colony Phoenix has failed. The survivors, confined to their individual quarters for years in a bid to conserve vital energy, have become insular, agoraphobic, and socially inept as they await some kind of rescue. But when the Tardis arrives on the long-abandoned colony ship that still sits in orbit, the Doctor, Peri and Erimem discover that there is a darker secret behind the gradual disappearances of the survivors. And that the next transmat between cells might find one of them in mortal danger…
While a better story than The Roof of the World, this is still a bit patchy. The premise behind the neccessity for the transmat plot is shakey and doesn’t actually hold water if you look at it closely enough – if these young folk have lived in separate rooms all their lives, how on earth did their parents actually make ‘em? But unlike Roof, this play cracks on at a good enough pace to keep you from thinking about the gaps and inconsistencies. For once Erimem is a proper fish out of water, thrown about the place by the transmats and confused by the sheer inability of the remaining colonists to understand the concept of walking from place to place.
The oscilating character of Erimem is probably the weakest point of this “season” so far. Different writers have tackled the Egyptian princess in different ways; this is probably the most successful attempt so far, keeping her intelligent despite her lack of future-nous (just like The Church & the Crown, a few weeks back). It also allows Erimem’s qualities as a born leader to peek through the clouds as she commands the ragtag agoraphobic colonists to safety. The Doctor even gives her the option of remaining with the colonists at the end, reasoning that she would be best placed to take over from the now-disgraced Auntie, but Erimem refuses and to be fair that’s probably the right decision, as leaving here would have been a very soft departure for a character Big Finish have clearly been building up over the past few plays.
Other weak points here include Auntie herself – or, rather, the way the Doctor seems to allow her to deal with the aliens. His anger feels quite vague and useless, almost as if he is happy to let the aliens be slaughtered en masse. And for Auntie, despite her resignation from command, there is no comeback – all she loses is her robot butler. An unsatisfying way to end things, though a better tale in general.