Rewritten from material that I originally posted 6/5/13 on another forum.
Blurb: The Doctor doesn’t normally need money, but when the TARDIS is immobilized and a fine has to be paid, a loan from a bank in the sky seems the solution to his problem.
But then the Selachians arrive, and the Doctor and his companions find themselves as hostages in the middle of a heist.
Death seems an absolute certainty. But the Doctor, Jamie, Polly and Ben have outwitted death before…
Format: Limited-cast audio drama, a Companion Chronicle from the point-of-view of Jamie McCrimmon. Published by Big Finish Productions and released February of 2012.
Setting: The Galactibank in Earth Orbit, time unknown (this likely occurs sometime between 2100 and 2164 although any date up to 2204 is possible). The details of when or why Jamie is narrating this story are not given.
Continuity: This story takes place between The Macra Terror and The Faceless Ones and after the audio adventure Resistance. Jamie refers to the Battle of Culloden (see The Highlanders). Ben and Jamie refer to their escape from the Milice (see Resistance). It is made unclear if Ben and Polly recognize the Selachians (see The Murder Game).
Canonicity Quotient: Steve Lyons show a great deal of diplomacy by making the issue murky of whether or not Ben and Polly have encountered the Selachians before as Big Finish tends to divorce itself from the novel continuity. It seems odd enough that that fact combined with the fact that the Doctor is a good bit out of character here that it feels like this story doesn't quite slot in where it's supposed to. 0.99
Discussion: After the last two knockouts it was inevitable that I hit a story that would underwhelm rather than overwhelm me and that was The Selachian Gambit. Let me get out of the way that I don't think that this is a bad story, I just expected it to be better than it was. This one had everything going for it - Anneke and Fraser had already proven to be a hit on Forbidden Time, I love anything by Steve Lyons, and the Selachians may have been the best thing to come out of the BBC Books PDA's, so their return was welcome. So with high expectations I may have been a little overly harsh.
First off let me say that there was some brilliance in this story. Anneke and Fraser were brilliant as always. There's obviously that genuine love on Fraser's side as well for Michael Craze and Patrick Troughton as he endeavored to really evoke the feeling that they were involved in the story. Anneke also did a great job recreating Polly and making the intervening years melt away. The script was also kind to the foursome this time. My criticism of Resistance and Forbidden Time was that one companion was redundant in each. This time Polly's sent to make the coffee but that's so that she's free to hatch a plan (although I find it odd that one of the Selachians wasn't watching her) and Ben gets plenty to do in this one as well. Although he's taken out of the action in an air duct for a while he comes back and he's key to the eventual fight that sends the Selachians packing. I think that a lot of the reason why people feel that this story so perfectly evokes season 4 is that the performances by Anneke and Fraser are just that good. The other thing that I love that feels just right for the era is the Doctor refusing to fill out some forms because they're asking for such difficult information like "name" and "address". That scene just makes me chuckle every time I think about it.
Unfortunately I feel like the actors are mostly having to fight a script that is constantly trying to subvert them. This story was played as a complete comedy something that the series would have never attempted in season 4. I feel like The Forbidden Time was more evocative of the era since the story for the most part was dark and full of danger but there were individual moments of high humor - Ben recognizing future cars because he picks up car magazines every time they stop somewhere, Jamie throwing a sophisticated technological device at a monster because its all he can think to do with it. But the series itself didn't try to be a comedy, its just sometimes the characters did funny things. The Selachian Gambit makes me think that we're going for a Three (Four) Stooges episode. The Selachians who at least in novel form were a tragic race who had overcompensated by becoming terror itself are just big, dumb creatures. They shout and yell and rage a lot but don't actually do anything. We get a lot of fussy people, such as a comedy rich lady who doesn't understand that she's in trouble and just insists on things being her way showing a level of divorce from reality that no one would really show. The sequences where Fraser has to have a long monologue of 5 minutes or so as 6 different characters is just kind of tiresome. Seriously they needed to divide up the roles with he and Anneke on this one because it just became painful to listen as suddenly all the voices except for Ben started sounding like the Doctor even when one of them was supposed to be a woman! Then there's the music. Oh god...the music. The music tries to remind as constantly that THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE A COMEDY with its playful melody throughout the entire story trying to kill any kind of drama or tension that the story is building to. How do we stop a bomb kids? Throw a pie in its face! This one was just short of a sitcom laugh track to complete the feeling. I also feel like all the talk of "fat cats" shows a trifle to much of Lyons own leanings. It certainly doesn't sound like its from the era and as countless commentators have said before me, the Doctor doesn't seem to have an overt political agenda normally so his constant railing against the fat cats seems a little off.
Final Rating: 7/10
Recommendation: A trifle close to the absurd, The Selachian Gambit has the nugget of a good story but keeps subverting itself by a desire to be a comedy. Still, Anneke and Fraser are wonderful together and its always fantastic to hear Fraser's Troughton impression. It's almost as if the man himself were back. The action remains pacey and there are a series of twists that should maintain just about anyone's interested. I'd definitely recommend listening to it.