Rewritten from material that I originally posted 6/7/13 on another forum.
Blurb: The TARDIS has landed in a futuristic space casino, where the Doctor, Ben, Polly and Jamie find fun, games… and monsters everywhere. There are vicious robot dogs, snake-headed gangsters from the Sidewinder Syndicate and a mysterious masked woman called Hope.
In this place, time travelers are to be tracked down and arrested. Yet, as events spiral out of control, time may be Polly's only ally…
Format: Limited-cast audio drama, a Companion Chronicle from the point-of-view of Polly Wright. Published by Big Finish Productions and released February of 2013.
Setting: A casino belonging to the Sidewinder Syndicate, time unknown. The details of when or why Polly 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 The Selachian Gambit. Steve Lyons has created a trilogy of stories with Resistance, The Selachian Gambit, and House of Cards but there is no indication of when they take place with respect to other stories in this gap or if other stories may happen in between as The Forbidden Time seems to do. Polly says that the second Doctor grips his lapels in a way that reminders her of the first (see The War Machines, The Smugglers, or The Tenth Planet). Jamie refers to the Selachian attack on the Galacti-Bank (see The Selachian Gambit). Jamie mentions that he's fought metal beasties (see The Moonbase). Jamie almost mentions that the Doctor told him about his winnings from playing Backgammon with Kublai Khan (see Marco Polo). Polly says that she's learned her lesson about trying to change history (see Resistance).
Canonicity Quotient: It's another story where everyone is just slightly off. Stylistically this feels more like a JNT era idea of a space casino with loads of unexplained time travel. Ben as a compulsive gambler just doesn't feel right, but honestly other than the fact that everything seems off it fits in pretty well. 0.99
Discussion: I just listened to this one yesterday. I have to say that to me this one felt very much like Lyons' brief was "give us the Selachian Gambit again because it was popular". The difference unfortunately was that even though I tend not to like silly stories, the Selachian Gambit was at least genuinely funny. This story felt like it wanted to be funny but instead just dragged. It wasn't horrible but also wasn't very good nor did it make me laugh.
On the good side Fraser and Anneke were good as always. I felt as if Anneke's Doctor might be slipping a bit since I've now been able to hear all 4 of hers in a row. It didn't seem to have the polish that her earlier Doctor impressions had. Fortune was an intriguing villain. We're told that she's something of a psychic vampire but it would I wish we're had more background than that as she was the one standout part of this story.
Mostly this story just felt to me as if it were "casino story by numbers". There didn't appear to be any consideration made to the fact that this was set in the future, which just made it more surreal. We're still going to have Texans like Lucky roaming around casinos hundreds or thousands of year in the future? The Sidewinders are so impressionable that after spending a little time in Chicago they pattern themselves on the Chicago mobs but even hundreds of years in the future they're still playing the same part? Really? You don't think maybe they would have patterned themselves on something else by then? That and the "you dirty rat" may have been a little cute the first time they said it. After the 130th time it was very very annoying and made it seem as if they patterned themselves off a few sentences rather than a whole culture.
Then there are the time bangles. In a pre-Time War era it felt extremely wrong that the Doctor didn't even bat his eyelids at them. They'd certainly be something that he'd have tried to do something about. I for one dislike when time travel is shown to be trivial and here we have a culture where time travel is so common that a casino feels the need to put in an alarm to keep it from being used there. I'm not sure how a civilization could work through such frequent use of time travel. It would make everything meaningless but these ramifications aren't considered just so that we can have a device to set the action in motion.
I must say that even though other Americans have complained about American accents this part didn't bother me. What does bother me is allusion to "Happy Family Cards" with no explanation. I would think that BF would realize that it has an international audience and would try to keep references to things that non-British would have no clue of to a minimum. The other one was that the term "scrum" seemed to be used an awful lot in this story. I think that I've worked out what it's supposed to have meant but sounds somewhat dirty and vulgar to American ears.
I gave this one a 6/10 because its about average but gave it another point out of deference to Lyons, Hines, and Willis who are usually so top notch. I am hopeful that their next outing takes a more serious turn. Also i wouldn't mind if someone other than Lyons gets another crack at season 4. We'll have to see.
Final Rating: 6/10
Recommendation: It feels like a joke that gets told to you over and over again. House of Cards starts funny but soon becomes flat. The fact that the twists are fairly easy to guess and in the end we don't have any kind of explanation for the main villain means that this one doesn't reach the height of the other audios set in season 4. Feel free to give this one a skip.