Reviewed By: thisoldcan
Review Date: 2/1/17 6:24 pm
2 out of 3 found this review helpful.
In Robophobia, the crew of the cargo ship The Lorelai have a mysterious murder on their hands. Med-Tech Liv Chenka (Nicola Walker) is flumoxed by the fact that a robot seems to have murdered Tal Karus (Matt Addis), going against all their basic programming. All the while, a mysterious stowaway, calling himself the Doctor (Sylvester McCoy), stalks the ship, seemingly knowing all the answers, but refusing to divulge anything. Does the crew of The Lorelai have a robot uprising on their hands, or is there a murderer on board. Robophobia is a fantastic standalone story, with several strong performances across the board and a great script by Nicholas Briggs.
Once again reprising the role of the Seventh Doctor is Sylvester McCoy. McCoy is one of my favorite actors to play the Doctor, as he just brings such a delightful performance to the Doctor in nearly every story he's involved with. In particular, I love the calm, manipulative nature that he brings to the role, which writer Nicholas Briggs deserves credit for here as well. But McCoy manages to bring a wonderful quality that a lesser actor wouldn't have been able to translate well; his manipulative nature walks a very fine line between sinister and kind, and McCoy manages to walk that line effectively, which is no small feat. There are several scenes I quite like, but his scene being rescued from the holding cell by a robot, and discussing, very casually, how the humans have managed to misread the situation is one of my favorite scenes from the story. I also quite loved his kinder performance in the final scene, though much of the credit for that scene goes to Toby Hadoke, giving a brilliant performance there.
As for the main guest stars of this story, Nicola Walker plays Med-Tech Liv Chenka. Liv, who would later go on to appear with the Eighth Doctor in Dark Eyes and Doom Coalition, is one of my favorite companions out there, and that's due, in no small part, to her performance here. Walker doesn't give Liv a more weary and hardened personality in this story, but she adds little bits to her performance, such as her relationship with Tal Karus and the grief she feels for him (with her reluctance to freeze his body), as well as her constant, yearning desire to have the Doctor explain just what the hell is going on in this story. It's no small wonder that she reprised the role, given her delightful performance here. Also of particular note with the guest cast is Tody Hadoke as Farel, The Lorelai's security chief. I find that comedic actors often give some of the best dramatic performances; I have no idea why that is, but Hadoke gives a strong dramatic performance here. His performance throughout the story, up until the final part, is solid, but not noteworthy. However, his performance at the end of the story is the absolute best part of the story, giving an emotional, affecting performance here as a tribute to his lost love.
The rest of the guest cast is a solid group of people; William Hazell does a fine job playing pilot Bas Pellico. I quite liked his chemistry with Walker, as it gave a nice dynamic to the early parts, and made his death all the more affecting. Nicholas Pegg, a Big Finish stalwart, was quite good as the commander of The Lorelai, Selerat. I quite liked his scene shooting the robots who were seemingly ganging up on him, and his somewhat crazed performance there, as he was able to effectively translate the distressing nature of the scene. Dan Starkey too gave a funny performance as the ever-neglected, robophobic deputy security chief Cravnet, while Matt Addis and John Dorney did perfectly fine in their bit performances as Tal Karus/SV10 and Leebar, respectively.
Nicholas Briggs delivered a fantastic script here, with a wonderful little murder mystery story, with fantastic emotional moments, and the Seventh Doctor at his manipulative best. I really quite liked how Briggs characterized the Doctor here in this story, as someone who knew exactly what was going on throughout most of the story, but who instead chose to let the crew find it out for themselves, with only slight nudging here and there. I also quite liked how the mystery here played out, with the twist about the robot uprising being a clever, effective way for Briggs to do the story. It wasn't the best twist ever, but it was nonetheless effective, and I quite enjoyed how it played out. Briggs also did a fantastic job breathing life into these bit characters, as I thought small scenes, like Liv first meeting Tal Karus, or the Doctor conversing with a robot about the nature of the robot uprising, were smart additions to the script. It not only filled out the story in an effective way, but it also managed to give a lot of weight to these first time characters, especially Liv, making me actually care about them. I also absolutely loved the ending that Briggs wrote, not only in the scene with the Doctor and Farel, but also with the final scene, where the robots choose to stay behind in the ship and sail off into the sun. It's a bit of a useless scene, but it's somewhat affecting to have the robots choose to fly off into the sun, and stay with the ship. After a story featuring them being effectively spat upon and discriminated against, it was a nice touch for Briggs to give them a fitting sendoff.
One scene I'd like to bring special attention to (And beware, as this spoils a good chunk of the ending) is finale of the story. The scene where Hadoke's character Farel is attempting to communicate with his wife Elicien (Nicola Walker, pulling double duty here) is a surprisingly affecting story, and a fantastic performance by Hadoke. That's not to say that he deserves all the credit, as McCoy acts the hell out of this scene, with the Doctor extending a hand of kindness to Farel, in the hopes that he'll change for the better. It brings up shades of last year's Forever Fallen, another story featuring the Doctor managing to talk down the "villain" of the story from their evil plans for destruction. It's a testament to Hadoke's strong performance that this scene works so well and so beautifully.
Overall, Robophobia is a strong outing for the Seventh Doctor and a fantastic introductory story for Liv Chenka. It was an exciting, tense plot, with a fantastic twist ending, and some fantastic performances by McCoy, Walker, and Hadoke. Briggs absolutely knocked the script out of the park with this story, delivering a wonderful script. Mixed together, this is really an absolutely fantastic story, and one that, with it being on sale all month long, you should definitely pick up.