Kieran Brennan continues his retrospective of the Eighth Doctor and Lucie Miller’s audio adventures with his review of Phobos!
The Doctor and Lucie arrive on Phobos: a ski resort with gravitational anomalies that attracts adrenaline loving tourists. However, what looks like the perfect getwaway for our heroes quickly goes wrong as it seems there may be more than just humans on this mountain. Phobos is known for its rumours of a monster on the mountain, but there may be more to these rumours than anyone can expect.
Phobos is yet another example of how consistent the Eighth Doctor’s range is. Though you may argue it’s the third story in a row that is ultimately inconsequential, it’s equally fair to say it is the third story in a row that shows off just how well this range is coming along. There’s a much appreciated sense of energy to the stories that I personally haven’t found present in anything else Big Finish has made (at least before these stories). It feels exciting and fresh and as though it’s breaking what was, at the time, Big Finish’s conventional form.
Now, I must admit that I’m perhaps overselling the uniqueness of Phobos. In the grand scheme of things, it’s probably the least unique adventure in the Eighth Doctor’s range so far. That being said, just like the adventures before it, it turns what could have been a dull two hour adventure into a fast-paced one hour. Perhaps I’m just repeating myself at this point but I really must stress how a shortened and sped up runtime can save an otherwise plain story. Behind the scenes, the crew seem much more enthusiastic about what is being produced. There’s a new tone to these ones that feels exciting, and it’s as if the team behind this really do feel as though they’re bringing something new to the table.
I think that’s where the joy of not only Phobos but also the entire Eighth Doctor range is found. This story may not be particularly unique in the grand scheme of Doctor Who, but the way that it told feels fresh. Though to be fair, Phobos does make an effort to break from traditional Doctor Who form, presenting itself as a base under Siege story but hiding a few fun twists underneath. It’s not groundbreaking by any stretch of the imagination. Ultimately it’s a fun and energetic story which I believe is what this range is going for. Would this story fly and be enjoyable in series 4? I can’t say, I imagine not, as Big Finish tends to shake up the Eighth Doctor’s life when needs be, but it’ll be interesting to find out.
What won’t ever need any shaking up however, is Paul McGann. Phobos touches on that darker side of the Doctor that at the time we would see every now and then on TV in David Tennant’s incarnation, but despite having more adventures to his name, feels few and far between with Paul McGann‘s. It’s a brief, very revival series speech, but that’s all McGann needs to create a scene stealing, an episode stealing, moment. It’s so wonderful to explore this incarnation of the Doctor even further; it still feels like the surface is only being scratched with his character and we only occasionally get glimpses of the man underneath it all.
I’m emphasizing this now as I really do believe that his relationship with Lucie Miller is the perfect example of this. He just has a different tone when talking to or about her when compared to his interactions with Charley. There’s a tension there played superbly well by both McGann and Sheridan Smith that serves their bickering extremely well and really sets their relationship apart from other Doctor-Companion dynamics.
The secondary cast are mostly good, but unfortunately are the weakest of this range so far, with some extremely dodgy Australian and American accents, not to mention the alien character who has a distractingly poor filter put over his voice to artificially make it deeper. It wouldn’t be much of a problem, but it doesn’t suit his mostly serious character at all. Big Finish usually nails this sort of thing, but it feels undercooked unfortunately.
Overall, Phobos is another solid entry in one of Big Finish‘s most consistently entertaining ranges. Its efforts to play with conventional classic series Doctor Who story structures are well done and it possesses a fun energy that drives the story to a satisfying finale.
Phobos is available on CD or as a download from http://www.bigfinish.com