Tastes Like Chicken

Big Finish Folly, Part 142 – Animal, by Andrew Cartmel

AnimalMargrave 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.

Having struggled through two of these post-Survival Lost Stories already, I really haven’t been looking forward to the third in the series. Crime of the Century had a couple of saving graces (the main one being that it wasn’t Nekromanteia) – surely Animal could only be better?

Well, it’s certainly better structured, to begin with. There’s an initial exploration of the University campus, along with the laboratories, while Ace and Raine disguise themselves as students to infiltrate the anti-establishment militant vegan tendency that is campaigning against the experiments going on in those self-same labs. While that would have made something of a lightweight story, it turns out it’s only the starter course – the real meat, so to speak, is in what Scobie has summoned from beyond the stars…

I’ll admit I must have missed something – the link between Scobie and the Numlocks flashes past pretty quickly and it’s unclear how he has managed to contact them in the first place (or, rather, how he has obtained a transmitter strong enough to do that). The Numlocks themselves, apart from the very idiosyncratic speech patterns that don’t help the pacing of the second half of the play, are actually very interesting bad guys in the context of the play’s themes of ethics and experimentation. The return of the Metatraxi, in a cameo role, is unexpected and at least a little humorous, especially as the Doctor’s over-intricate planning gets punted straight out the window in the process.

In view of the other elements, the presence of UNIT and Brigadier Bambera are perhaps more than the story really needs. Ostensibly they are here to guard the laboratories that contain the flesh-eating ambulatory plants, but Bambera and her crew don’t have a lot of sway over the plot. Her sergeant, Henrick, is more a hindrance than anything else, and not a good echo of Benton. The flesh-eating plants come good in the end, much more memorable presences than UNIT, unfortunately.

Well then, a better story, building on the bones of Thin Ice and Crime of the Century, but at the moment still more of a curiosity than a good reason to have continued the TV series past Survival.
***½

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