Welcome to Tantane Spaceport where the tribes of Business and Economy have been at war for all of four hundred years...
Welcome to Tantane Spaceport where a terrible creature called the Wailer prowls the corridors around the Control Tower, looking to eat the unwary...
Welcome to Tantane Spaceport where there is one Arrival: a battered blue Police Box containing the time-travelling Doctor and his companion, Mel...
Welcome to Tantane Spaceport where there are no Departures. Ever.
Colin Baker (The Doctor), Bonnie Langford (Melanie Bush), Ronald Pickup (Elder Bones), Isabel Fay (Naysmith), Gwilym Lee (Pretty Swanson), Beth Chalmers (Galpan/Beauty Swanson), Adrian MacKinder (Rogers/Game Voice), John Banks (Wailers/Announcement/Mad Passenger)
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First up, this does not follow on directly from Wrong Doctors, so I was a little confused at the start. Secondly, the cover has the doctor in his blue coat, but in the story he is clearly wearing the colourful one. All unnecessarily confusing.
Get over all of that that and then...
Its a good story, though the key plot twists are predictable.
I think the best part of the story is the doctor's idea for improvising a telecommunication system. Not even McGyver would have done it this way.
Reviewer Says: No previous stories required.
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Thereâs an odd paradox dominating Spaceport Fear, and it regards the titular Spaceport setting. Itâs a conceit which is simultaneously omnipresent and yet strangely irrelevant. The notion of an entire culture founded on some small aspect of life is not a new one, or one invented by Doctor Who, though I confess I tend to think of such tales as âFace of Evilâ stories. In that outing, the origins of the culture served as a key twist in the tale which put events into perspective and progressed the plot.
In Fear, the spaceport (airport) culture is not a twist, but a conceit up front from the word go. Itâs heavily laid on to every element of the charactersâ society, and particularly shot through their dialogue. Fearâs lighthearted in tone and plays this for humour with a liberal seasoning of puns, rather than explore any implications of the conceit. In this way, the setting bears more resemblance to Paradise Towers than Face of Evil. If nothing else, the jovial tone is spot on for the amiable Mel era.
Even in Paradise Towers, though, the High-Rise culture conceit informed the plot and was central to its resolution. In Fear, it just never seems to connect. As the story begins, Iâm wondering why thereâs a culture founded entirely on spaceport life, pondering the meaning of closed up windows and moving walls (redolent of the setting in Red). Yet as the story progresses, it never seems to be a mystery that the play is interested in, nor the characters. Itâs never really viewed as a question that needs answering at all, and so ultimately it never seems to matter to the plot. Itâs just window dressing. It still manages to be quite amusing at times - a few of the puns are particularly choice - but more often than not it just sort of washes by along predictable lines.
Two members of the supporting cast stand out, though for different reasons. Ronald Pickup as Elder Bones takes the focus of the story, and commands it fairly well with a decent performance. Bonesâ background isnât as predictable as it might have been, and thereâs the suggestion of some interesting nuances in his history. The story never really joins the dots though, so Bones doesnât so much end up as an intriguing character as a character who seems like he would be intriguing if we just had a little more detail. Pickup manages to preserve what facets are present, rather than rendering the character two-dimensional as could easily have happened, which is to his credit.
The other cast member of note is Beth Chalmers. Notable because sheâs become so omnipresent in Big Finishâs productions of late that Iâm finding it distracting from the story. To be clear, I think sheâs a solid performer and Iâve never disliked her in something. I really liked her in Dominion. However, she has a distinctive voice and something of a signature fingerprint (voiceprint?) that she puts on all her characters. When hearing her every month, it starts to pull one out of the story.
The remaining characters are passable though nondescript. In particular, I found Pretty and Beauty to be lacking in definition during the first half of the story, to the point where they just blurred into Galpan and Rogers. (And I never quite got what Gallagher was going for with the names.) I realised eventually that they were intended to be mirrored pairs, but I barely registered they existed as seperate characters. This isnât helped by having Beth Chalmers double up on Beauty and Galpan, exacerbating two issues at once.
Beth Chalmers is also one of a number of elements which Fear has in common with last monthâs Wrong Doctors. The villains of last monthâs piece, with their satirical big-business culture styling, are heavily echoed by the humour and style of this story. Whilst itâs not a bad thing to maintain a consistent tone, I think the positioning of these releases back to back is a bit unfortunate. It causes Fear to come off as a bit of a repeat, tonally, of the Wrong Doctors, which it canât compete with.
With Bonnieâs appearances being such a rare thing, it would have been nice for this series to really capitalise on her return with every release. Whilst Spaceport Fearâs not bad, itâs rather ephemeral. A 6/10.