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159h 'Live 34'

CD audio adventure released September 2005, 4 episodes

Writer: James Parsons and Andrew Stirling-Brown
Director: Gary Russell

Roots: Orson Welles & Mercury Theater's War of the Worlds (drama in the guise of a live broadcast, though Mercury Theater didn't create the genre per se). Judge Dredd ('meat wagons' as a slang term for vehicles designated for collection of the dead), the Doctor's campaign poster recalls the 'I Want YOU' Uncle Sam/General Kitchener recruitment posters. Ace appropriates a line from The Italian Job ("I was only supposed to blow the bloody doors off") and recalls the conclusion to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Many of the activities blamed on the Colony's government here (e.g. 'disappearances', delayed elections in the name of 'security', planted bodies in bomb-sites) have real-world inspirations. 'Wareing's World' is probably a play on Whicker's World.

Intertextuality: The Doctor's interview-closing "Stay tuned" echoes a common phrase from TV series producer John Nathan-Turner to fans of the show.

Dialogue Triumphs: "It isn't usually the monsters who are behind the sofas"

Double Entendres: "You do find me damper than I might like."

Continuity: Colony 34 is part of a group of 49 colonies set in a solar system with two suns. It has a First, Second and Third City and by the times of the radio broadcasts it appears its day is over twenty-four hours long - there are at least nine months to the year. Geographical locations named are the Akaseem Peninsula (a mining area), the Iloonan Sea (which has a bay close to Second City), the Beacon Hills between Second and Third City, and there are mountains to the North. The three cities have a joint government, the Colony Central Commission, and work closely together, including a tri-city games competition, which local recreation includes competitive aquaball, with named teams being The Pioneers and New Haven. Recent archaeological digs confirm the existence of megafauna (including a predator up to three stories in height) long before human arrival, which could have been over a century ago. Since then it has gathered a large immigrant population, even from other colonies (the land-locked Colony 48 is described unfavourably in this regard), much to the annoyance of its own people.

Recent developments have led to a large amount of unrest: increasing unemployment and power crises have brought tension among the population and amid this 'instability' open elections have been postponed for five years. Three years ago the leader of the main opposition party was arrested for sedition, and the current Premier Jaeger introduced emergency powers prohibiting unsanctioned public gatherings and political parties. More recently the entire chamber of deputies has been suspended on charges of corruption. Less publicly it eventuates that the planet's natural resources are more scarce or harder to extract that originally thought.

Hex's father worked on the docks, but was forced to accept redundancy after an extended period of industrial action by workers. In doing so he lost his livelihood, and this experience plus constant reminders by Hex's grandmother convinced Hex to find a job that would always be in demand once he left school - so he went into medicine.

Reporter Ryan Wareing estimates Ace's age to be in her mid-to-late twenties (she is 'a little older' than Lula, whom he estimates to be in her early 20s). Her Art class teacher at school used to liaise with their Chemistry teacher, Mr Watts during class-time. Ace appears to have dropped her 'Just McShane' alias from here - she says she has had several names, but Ace is the one she prefers - it's 'her' name.

Among the Doctor's effects in the TARDIS is a 1962 Black Vincent motorcycle with 'improvements' including automatic transmission and GPS, currently in Ace's custody, while Hex has his umbrella.

The Bottom Line: Live 34, the winner of a very public scriptwriting 'competition' held by Big Finish, is a very good piece, despite being a simple story with a few too many 'shocks' and moments of expositions in it s final minutes (bodies used as fuel! A secret double!) By divorcing itself from the usual structure and theme stings the story's a challenging one to listen to - it could have used more cliffhangers, perhaps, but it's an engaging story nonetheless, mainly for its style of narration. Hex gets a little more time to reveal his character too, which is a plus. In the main as with so many Doctor Who stories, there are no great solutions offered - Colony 34 may have a new or interuim leader, but its long-term challenges remain, with the Doctor and his friends departing just at the right time to beat the immediate problem, leaving the bigger solutions to the people.

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