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The Doctor Who Monthly Range is wrapping up, making this the antepenultimate release in the series and the final solo story for the Sixth Doctor. This range is arguably where this incarnation of the Doctor finally found his feet after a shaky time on television, so does Old Sixie go out with as big a bang as he arrived with? Read on to find out!
Colony of Fear by Roland Moore is set on the colonised world of Triketha, whose people have found themselves under attack from a race of giant wasps whose stings send them into a coma. The Doctor (Colin Baker) and his companion Constance Clarke (Miranda Raison) arrive with an eye to helping the colonists, but soon find themselves caught up in other problems. The setup is traditional and straightforward, but this is a story revels in its simplicity.
Despite its simple structure, Colony of Fear has an intriguing subplot that hugely elevates the story. Right from the beginning, the Doctor can’t shake the feeling he’s been to Triketha before, and the fact that one of the colonists, Edwin (brought to life with a nuanced performance from Leighton Pugh) recognises the TARDIS might back that up. The answer lies with the mysterious Tarlos (Andrew James Spooner), who has unexpected connections to both Edwin and the Doctor. While some of the answers are a little predictable, and some very much aren’t, the buildup to these revelations ensures that Colony of Fear remains constantly engaging throughout.
Colin Baker is on point as the Doctor throughout, taking the initiative and setting out to uncover the truth of Triketha’s plight. His scenes involving Edwin and Tarlos sizzle with palpable tension, thanks both to Moore’s script, and the performances of Baker, Pugh and Spooner. Meanwhile, Miranda Raison‘s Constance is given pretty standard companion material, with nothing really notable for her character except for a short scene in episode three where she bonds with Edwin over a shared experience. Apart from that, this story could really have featured any other Sixth Doctor companion, though it should be noted that, as always, Raison gives a strong performance.
The guest cast is rounded off by Nicholas Asbury, Rachel Atkins and Misha Malcolm, who play base commander Mollis, his pharmacologist wife Dresha and plucky, gun-toting Solara respectively. All three are strong in their roles, though the standout has to be Malcolm, whose character is almost like a second companion to the Doctor in this story, accompanying him for much of the plot. One problem for me was that I thought the three main male characters, played by Asbury, Pugh and Spooner ,sounded far too similar, so it was very hard to tell them apart throughout the piece. This isn’t a huge issue, but it might have been wise to give one of the characters an accent to help tell him apart from the others.
Steve Foxon handles the sound design and music for this release, and does a stellar job as usual. His soundscape for the jungles of Triketha is particularly impressive; it was so lifelike at times that I had to remove my earphones several times because I thought the sounds were coming from my house! He also does a good job bringing the malevolent wasps plaguing the colony to life, making them a distinct threat even though we can’t actually see them.
All in all, Colony of Fear is a traditional Doctor Who story well-told, with a few little twists to elevate it above average. It’s a testament to Moore as a writer, and indeed to the Doctor Who format in general, that, even in a range 273 releases strong and counting, stories with unexpected moments like this can continue to be told. Recommended.
Doctor Who: Colony of Fear is available now on CD or as a download from http://www.bigfinish.com
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