Pick Up a Penguin

Big Finish Folly, Part 73 – The Maltese Penguin, by Robert Shearman

Doctor Who: The Maltese PenguinIn which comic-strip sidekick Frobisher, a shape-changing Whifferdill who is overly fond of the form of a penguin, decides to take up once more the mantle of Private Detective and swiftly becomes embroiled in a plot that bears absolutely no resemblance at all to The Maltese Falcon whatsoever. And despite the Doctor’s kind offers of assistance, Frobisher is determined to go it alone – for down these dirty streets a penguin must waddle…

Has it really come to this? The Doctor playing second fiddle to a penguin? Well, worse things have happened (Excelis Dawns, for one). And, as it happens, this is actually a pretty funny affair. Not just because of Robert Jezek’s laconic delivery of Frobisher as a character: Colin Baker does a hilarious turn as Frobisher-being-the-Doctor, and Robert Shearman’s script is a witty pastiche of various noir tropes (mostly Chandler and Bogart).

The story itself is a humdrum affair, with Frobisher hired to trail the gonky boyfriend of Lady Mulholland. Naturally enough, it’s all a blind for something else, and the suddenly-dead gonk is shelved in favour of a battle against the evil Dogbolter (also a DWM comics creation). The best parts are the description of Dogbolter’s police chief lackey as “looking nothing like Peter Lorre” and the unexpected revelation that the Doctor is actually really lonely aboard the Tardis. The Maltese Penguin definitely captures the tone of the DWM stories, and as something of a canonologist it’s good to note that this brings both Frobisher and the DWM comics firmly into continuity.

It’s good for a diversionary hour – the real question is whether the main range itself will suit Frobisher. And as luck would have it, that’s where we’re going next…
***½

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