1. The Demons of Red Lodge
Writer: Jason Arnopp
Roots: Invasion of the Bodysnatchers and other alien duplicate stories, mention is made of Matthew Hopkins (Witchfinder General)
Goofs: How does the presence of part of the Doctor's heart kill the Spira? Is the species utterly intolerant of any foreign matter in their bodies?
Dialogue Triumphs: "I have a rule never to be paralysed twice in one day."
"There's nothing like death to bring about a hundred per cent energy loss."
"Gratitude in the deaths of others soon chews through the soul."
Continuity: The Spira are percentage-obsessed aliens who drain the life force of the beings they duplicate as they parasitically enter populations. Two charges are required to duplicate a human being: the first allows duplication to begin, but each 'template' needs to recover before the second and final charge begins, resulting in half-formed duplicates wandering at large. 'Red Lodge' is an isolated, experimental area featuring an atmosphere which creates artificially-induced panic. 98 villagers have been captured.
Links: The Doctor refers obliquely to Daleks. When the TARDIS landed he and Nyssa were discussing the Great Fire of London: "We've still got a full year before Pudding Lane" (The Visitation) Nyssa remembers Traken (when ever does she not?)
Location: Red Lodge, Suffolk 1665
The Bottom Line: "Numbers yield precision; precision yields results"
Worthy and earnest, but once the horror trappings disappear and the aliens arrive, rather dull and more than a little silly. The Spira have to be among the stupidest aliens who ever lucked out in an invasion of Earth.
2. The Entropy Composition
Writer: Rick Briggs
Roots: Prog Rock, Syd Barrett et al, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (the Western Spiral Arm) Timothy Leary's Electric Kool-Aid Test ("turn on, tune in...") Paradise Lost (Abaddon) The Doctor mentions Benny Goodman. The Music of the Spheres
Goofs: "Every living atom torn apart. Just a pile of clothes left." (so, not every living atom then. And atoms aren't per se alive, of course)
Dialogue Triumphs: "My sisters and I danced before the stars were born. You would have thought us beautiful."
Continuity: Concordum's Western Spiral Arm [of the Milky Way Galaxy?] collection includes music from Earth as well as Traken. Included in the latter is the Consul Kremasus' court chamber music, 'Plane or space-curves on surfaces consisting of parts similar to the whole' for the inaugural Traken Union, a geometric sonata beloved of Tremas, who played it for Nyssa's stepmother when she was low. Concordum has a planetary public address system and a subcontinent dedicated to storing romantic laments. Among the compositions mentioned (and lost?) in the Archive wing's destruction are those of Johann Sebastian Bach, the noble Traxus born in the sixty-third cycle and reincarnated during the Eleventh Succession and Asonen Karthkeldeta who died during the Android Uprising.
Geoffrey Belvedere Cooper, aka The Coop was born in 1941 and was a reclusive guitarist for a clubbing fourt-piece. After forging a solo career his final and 'lost' classic Prog Rock composition White Waves, Soft Haze was a psychedelic suite. A previous composition with the band You Can See My Pad, Doll was short and is kept in the Archive, although it was banned by the BBC.
Entropy Sirens are an ancient race, existing before the creation of our universe. They can't live in our reality, needing pure chaos to survive. The roar of the universe's birth ("Heavenly music from the dawn of time") comprised of quantum sounds existing before their silencing by nucleosynthesis. They fled and found new homes of entropy while the universe formed, Erise found Geoff Cooper and became his muse, directed him to compose White Waves, Soft Haze and infiltrate a copy into Concordum's vaults. Exposure to the Sirens' sonic wave directly on human ears is fatal.
The Terileptis Event Horizon Fold is the most magnificent sunrise in this area of space-time.
The TARDIS has chronospatial antennae and can broadcast a wavelength from Earth to Concordum.
The Doctor doesn't like being called 'sweet", knows of the Entropy Sirens, but has never met them before now. He doesn't care for lutes (or says he doesn't) or prog rock and considers primal sonics to be a theory.
Links: Time Crash ("Is that a vegetable you're wearing?" "-It's... decorative") The Visitation (the Terileptis Event Horizon Fold). It is possible that the mention of an Android Uprising links this story to those of the Orion War (Keepsake, et al)
The Bottom Line: "Not quite the same, is it, when it's not live?"
While the idea of a murderous soundwave takes Big Finish back to its earliest releases, there's a knowing sense of fun here that allows the conceit a second run. A particular highlight: Nyssa's posing as a groupie to the Doctor's horror. It's not quite prog music on the soundtrack, mind.
3. Doing Time
Writer: William Gallagher
Roots: Cool Hand Luke, The Shawshank Redemption, Porridge (the opening voiceover, and whose title character provides Janson Fletcher Hart with a middle name). Prisoner (known in the UK and US as Prisoner Cell Block H, of course Nyssa is to be in H block, a nod to the latter title). Jansen refers to Bonnie and Clyde, and Hobbley Pete sings When the Saints Go Marching In. Folly may take its name from Johnny Cash's Folsom Prison Blues.
Goofs: Nyssa's and Janson's 'bails' joke comes from nowhere and disappears back there almost instantly.
Continuity: Folly is (presumably) an Earth colony sharing its calendar (visiting time in the prison in during August, the date of the election, May the 10th of the following year, is a Monday) and cultural references include When the Saints Go Marching In and Bonnie and Clyde. A university is mentioned by Nyssa, and there is of course a planetary prison. There are seventeen guards overseeing 1709 prisoners in the facility. It has an F and H wing.
Dr John Smith is the alias of a (fictitious) notorious and dangerous criminal mastermind on Folly (it was bound to happen.)
Jabreth's people live three systems away and using their technology would reach Folly in exactly one year. They use elliptical warp drive technology in their spaceships - within a timefield of the type used in Folly prison the warp drives would spasm and explode with disastrous consequences. Jabreth can ingest (but not necessarily digest) almost anything
Nyssa hasn't heard of Bonnie and Clyde and works as a lab assistant at Folly University while the Doctor is inside, forging a doomed infatuation with a colleague. 'Michael'.
The Doctor takes a year to cross the prison's security time field - outside the timefield a minute passes while a week (later a year) passes within it. The maximum sentence is five years (Jansen's, for being a repeated criminal nuisance), while the Doctor's sentence is for two, ostensibly for threatening to blow up the prison. Losing track of time is a new experience for him. He grows a beard whilst in the time field, and spends over four months in solitary confinement - a prison record. The temporal trace he detects - an echo of the non-event, is a paradox of his own making. On the first morning the Doctor spends in prison he organises night classes in Small spacecraft maintenance, re-catalogued the prison library according to the Dewey Decimal System. Eighteen prisoners have been on parole since his counselling programme, prisoner health has improved since his suggestion of nutritionally-balanced meals, and he organises a twenty-a-side cricket tournament between prisoners and staff to improve morale. Wrote the F-Wing pantomime
Links: Nyssa mentions Traken and its Fosters. Four to Doomsday (Nyssa is learning a lot about telebiogenesis)
Location: The planet Folly, a future Earth colony
The Bottom Line: "Let me through - I'm a desperate criminal!"
Like its companion stories, Doing Time carries across a simple pastiche with considerable charm and plenty of knowing winks. As the only honest man inside the prison Davison has a good innings as the Doctor, while Sarah Sutton's Nyssa is clearly the most naive and inept would-be criminal on the outside of Folly Prison. Actually rather sweet.
4. Special Features
Writer: John Dorney
Roots: 1970s portmanteau horror films and DVD commentaries. Dracula (an out of control coach on the movie soundtrack.) Martin's anecdote about swiping the set wallpaper is related in a similar story about the drapes from Hammer's Dracula (1953) in Peter Cushing's movie memoirs. The Doctor intones 'Bibbidy-Bobbidi-Boo' from Disney's Cinderella, and the phrase "Klaatu Barada Nikto" from The Day the Earth Stood Still 'Part VII: Death' from Monty Python's The Meaning of Life ("shut up!") Nyssa's blundering into the wrong production office and attracting the eye of an admiring director recalls Katy Manning's story of her own casting in Doctor Who.
Dialogue Triumphs: "It's not me!" "-nor me, I've got a BAFTA!!"
"I mean, how can anyone talk such inane nonsense all the time?" "-Not heard many DVD commentaries, have you?
Continuity: Rasht mind parasites are "more of a concept than a physical being" and come from another dimension. Their seeding devices, scattering 'through the cosmos like dandelions on the wind' look like round discs covered in pictographs - through a combination of word and symbol a tunnel opens in the mind of the beholder and the Rasht creature enters. The control phrase can birth new young from their plane, destroying the human mind in the process, although embryonic (a term used by the Doctor, though the Rasht refers to it as a "larvae") Rasht are planted in the brain of the first being that comes into physical contact with them, entering through a wormhole and feeding and growing until their burned-out host becomes their 'nursemaid.' The species appears to have some sort of psychic influence also. Possession of individuals seems to be able to happen remotely, simply by hearing the incantation and seeing the symbols on the device.
The Doctor has meantime studied the Rasht and its language, devising a reversal incantation and symbols to utterly contain and destroy the creature. In his preparation for the Rasht's final attempt to enslave the Earth he attends the commentary recording of the 25th anniversary edition of Doctor Demonic, of which The Devil's Whisper is the first instalment. The specific trigger scenes in the film footage incorporating Rasht artefacts (see: Untelevised Adventures) was 'doctored' digitally by the Time Lord himself.
Links: Reference is made to The Demons of Red Lodge
Untelevised Adventures: The Doctor describes two previous encounters with the Rasht entity, once in the mid-nineteenth Century in Beechamwell, Norfolk, the inspiration for the story of The Devil's Whisper, and later in 1976 for the production of the film Doctor Demonic, a horror portmanteau incorporating a dramatisation of the story. Originally in Beechamwell a local landlady came into contact with a seeding device when it fell to earth, killing her husband outright. The embryo entered her mind and attempted to seed the entire village, nearly doing so until the Doctor ("a visiting professor" according to local legend) and Nyssa drove it back into the device. The device later emerged when found by actress Joanna Burke who under the Rasht's influence faked a script which she had made into a film, attempting to restart the seeding ritual through the medium and incorporating the actual Rasht device as a prop for the production. Becoming aware of the production (possibly because of the 'curse' of accidental fatalities of crew associated with its filming) the Doctor joined as historical advisor late in the shoot, but not before there were further deaths. Once again it was defeated by him and Nyssa (acting in the production as "Nyssa Traken"), retreating once again into the mind of Joanna, its latest nurse maid. An entire night's filming, including pros and scripts vanished - everything went blank for three hours after the Doctor's cover up of the event.
The Bottom Line: "And that's a wrap".
In a short list of story ideas that could probably only work as audios, the story within a film commentary is a serious entry. Fortunately this one isn't, although it is very funny and superbly cast (particularly James Fleet and Ian Brooker). The highlight of this anthology, and another very strong script by John Dorney.