Starry-Eyed

I’m going to break from the Seventh Doctor’s adventures here to catch up with some of the other incarnations. It’s all relative, you see…

Oh – and Adric. In the Main Range. GET IN.

Big Finish Folly, Part 0C – The Star Men, by Andrew Smith

The Star MenAstronomical navigation is a tricky business. To help Adric with his studies, the Doctor sets course for Gallius Ultima – a planet on the edge of the Milky Way, housing one of the most impressive observatories ever constructed.

But the TARDIS arrives to find Gallius U in a state of emergency, tracking the return of the Explorer-class ship Johannes Kepler from its mission into the heart of the mysterious Large Magellanic Cloud. A mission that met with disaster…

To find out what overtook the crew of the Johannes Kepler, the Doctor and his companions must journey into the heart of the Cloud… and beyond, into the darkness of another reality altogether. The universe of the Star Men.

Andrew Smith’s last appearance in the Folly’s timeline saw a return to E-Space for the Fifth Doctor and the post-Adric Tardis team. Now we’ve come full circle (ba-dum-tish – sorry…) with a universe-hopping true space opera epic with danger, death, interstellar leap drives, mathematics, and a heck of a lot of foreshadowing for Adric as he disobeys the Doctor and almost gets himself killed…

I really admire Andrew Smith’s set-up here. It’s all done in the dialogue of course, but it’s so well done that you can picture the pan and zoom from the Large Magellanic Cloud to Gallius Ultima. And doesn’t Gallius Ultima sound like something you’d find in the Golden Age SF novels of EE Doc Smith or Asimov? Exactly. The fact that one of the starships is named the Carl Sagan only adds to the geek value and proper space opera-ness of it all. This all fits in very well indeed with the Fifth Doctor’s TV era, with the same tone as the Lost Story The Elite in some respects.

Obviously with a large Tardis team it must be split up quickly. Rarely does this result in half the crew being stranded an entire galaxy away, but Smith does this with aplomb and then takes it even further. The Star Men of the title aren’t from E-Space, but their own universe has been exhausted by their hunger. They’re dangerous enough that even though you know that the team has to survive, you’re still worried that Smith might rip up the rulebook completely.

And what to make of Adric’s debut in the Main Range? It’s not as jarring as Psychodrome and Iterations of I, where Matthew Waterhouse struggled to refind Adric’s voice. He sounds a lot more comfortable, massively enjoying himself, and the role he’s been given in this play at least is a very meaty one – plenty of opportunity to examine his character and refine aspects of Adric’s personality.

I’m biased here as I’ve enjoyed the vast majority of the Fifth Doctor’s adventures, and listening to this after a hard slog through Sly Seven’s catalogue is a pleasure. But this is Doctor Who as it was, and as it should be.

****½

Buy it here

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