The Audio Novels range continues with The Dead Star, an enhanced audiobook written by none other than Kate Orman, who returns to the universe of Doctor Who after twenty years away. At over six hours in length it’s certainly a hefty listen, but Orman manages to keep things fresh throughout, constantly shifting the story’s locations, concepts and characters.
A story with such variety means that some sections are naturally more interesting than others. While the tale as a whole is constantly entertaining, there’s no doubt that the first three hours are stronger than the second, taking us through a terrifying, Escherian nightmare version of London in the first part before giving us a pacy, action-packed couple of episodes set in 1968.
The Dead Star is the first Audio Novel not to feature a recurring villain (previous instalments in the series focused on the Master, the Daleks and the Cybermen) and this is definitely one of its strengths. Orman crafts a genuinely interesting and fresh-feeling storyline which dips into 60s nostalgia while updating things for the modern audience, particularly with regards to the science, which is clearly well-researched, if a little hard to follow at times.
All three of the main characters are given lots to do, which adds to the expansive feel of this adventure, and the world of the story is populated with a whole host of colourful side characters. What The Dead Star lacks is an emotional core, however. None of the characters really go on a journey here, and we don’t get the sense they’ve been changed by the events of the story. Similarly, Polly is often shortchanged, written as incompetent, incapable and whiny, despite being given a significant portion of the narrative.
The story is narrated by Michael Troughton, who recently took over the role of the Second Doctor at Big Finish. This is his most assured performance yet; not only does he feel like the Second Doctor right from the off, but he also proves a dab hand at bringing the story’s other characters to life, with an impressive variety of accents and vocal registers.
Overall, this is a strong story that flies by despite its immense runtime, partly thanks to Orman’s ever-evolving script and partly due to Troughton’s excellent performance. A loving return to the Second Doctor’s era, updated for the modern audience. Recommended.
The Dead Star is available as a download from http://www.bigfinish.com