blogger_who (blogger_who) wrote,

Doctor Who: Destiny of the Doctor 01 - Hunters of Earth

Rewritten from material that I originally posted 5/15/13 on another forum:

Blurb: Shoreditch, London, 1963. The Beatles have beaten John Smith and the Common Men to No. 1 and satellites are being launched in outer space. Back down on Earth, strange goings-on are occurring: the normally placid teenagers of Coal Hill are running riot and a master thief is stealing highly specialised equipment.

Schoolgirl Susan Foreman just wants an easy life for herself and her grandfather, the mysterious Doctor. She wants to be liked and accepted by Cedric and all the other pupils at Coal Hill School. But there’s trouble in the streets and bombsites around Totter’s Lane.

The teenagers are becoming dangerous… Their mission: to hunt down anyone different, or alien… Susan’s quiet life is about to spiral out of control. Having inadvertently started drawing attention to herself, she finds herself drawn into a desperate situation. Suddenly, the chase is on and she and her grandfather are now the hunted.

Format: Limited-cast "talking book" format. The story is read by Carole Anne Ford except for the parts of Cedric, which are read by Tam Williams. Published by Big Finish Productions and Audio Go and released January 2013.

Setting: Earth: October 1963, Shoreditch, London, England.

Continuity: Set prior to the events of the television episode, An Unearthly Child, and after the events of the novella, Time and Relative. This story is set in the month prior to the TARDIS leaving with Ian and Barbara. Here, the Doctor is trying to obtain the components to repair the Ship, which is referenced in that other story. There are references to Susan's telepathic powers (see The Sensorites and The Transit of Venus). There is also a very good explanation given here for why the Doctor is so mistrustful and downright mean spirited towards Ian and Barbara in An Unearthly Child.

Canonicity Quotient: Although existing in the controversial "Season 0" and taking place before the television series, Hunters of Earth does its best to remain continuity free. It neither references or contradicts any of the Season 0 stories from Big Finish or Telos Publishing. It also helps to explain why the Doctor changes his mind after Quinnis about whether it's a good idea for Susan to attend a school and have friends her own age. It does seem odd that the Susan who has now been subjected to 3 people who pretended to be her friend for their own gain (see The Alchemists and Quinnis) would still be so open and trustful with strangers. Of course it could just be that she's a naive person. The references to Susan's telepathic powers seem very misplaced as The Sensorites indicates that neither she nor the Doctor realized that she had an aptitude in that direction. The lack of any mention to the Hand of Omega seems odd, especially with the importance placed on it in The Beginning, The Alchemists, and Remembrance of the Daleks; but it's not enough to contradict anything that we've seen per se. The lack of any mention of Mr Ratcliffe seems odd, since one would expect him to be in the thick of any uprising of xenophobia in 1963 Shoreditch. Enough material seems off to dock this one a few points. 0.92

Discussion: After Quinnis I was looking forward to this. I saw Nigel Robinson's name on the cover and while I disagreed with some of his choices in adapting Farewell, Great Macedon I have tons of respect for his first Doctor novelizations, especially Edge of Destruction. I also greatly enjoyed his adaptation of Masters of Luxor. Then, there's that almost forbidden period in the shows history. We've had glimpses in Time and Relative, Frayed, and Quinnis but as fans we always want to know more about what happened to the Doctor and Susan before their first televised adventure.

What we got was average. It wasn't bad per se. Xenophobia is one of those concepts that resonates with everyone. We're all different in some way or other, and just about everyone has felt singled out at some point in time or another. Imagine that ratcheted up to 11, and you can feel that palpable, atavistic fear that we all have buried within us of being completely ostracized from the group. That was a good hook to hang a story on.

Then we had Carole Ann Ford. She does a phenomenal job of doing young Susan. When I listen to her reading Susan's lines it makes me feel like I have my DVD's and I'm watching one of her stories. Tam Williams also did a great job as Cedric, putting real emotion into his lines. You can tell a lot about his relationship with Susan from what he says and how he says it. Then, there's everyone else. I've said it for the Lost Stories, and I'll say it again here. If you aren't doing a story from a particular character's point of view then why have them read all the parts when you have another actor just sitting there? It's nothing against Ford. She recreates Susan perfectly and does an ok Doctor, but her work on the other voices is appalling. I kept on wondering why they referred to the DJ as "he" or "him" until I realized that the DJ wasn't supposed to be some crazy old lady but a man. Ford doesn't do a great job of differentiating voices. I think Tam could have helped her out with some of the other male parts to give them some individuality. Like others I really wish this had been a story that William Russell could have narrated as I much prefer his audio performances, but I understand that they wanted this Destiny of the Doctor series to really span the Doctor's entire history that we know of.

The main flaw for me in this story is that it just seems to meander. Rook seems to be the villain behind everything. Then, it turns out that he's ancillary to the plot. Then, this guy who's so determined to track the Doctor down that he's gone undercover to spy on Susan at her school just decides that since his nephew asked him nicely to let Susan and the Doctor go?! I don't believe it for a second. It's no wonder the Doctor is so paranoid in An Unearthly Child. He's probably been waiting for Rook to come back with reinforcements and likely suspects Ian and Barbara of working with him.

I think this story may have been a little stronger if it was just real xenophobia. The explanation for what's causing this is telegraphed fairly quickly, or at least the medium it uses to exert its influence is. I also find it hard to believe that the Doctor just trusts that Rook is going to get rid of the thing. If the next stories in this series don't deal with the ramifications of humans getting ahold of that technology, then I think its a real wasted opportunity. The external threat aspect of this robs the story of a lot of its impact and leaves me feeling like the story had no import.

Also, it just needs to be said. How in the world do you have a story about xenophobia in 1963 and NOT reference Remembrance of the Daleks? I kept expecting Radcliff or Mike to be namechecked somewhere. Maybe Mr Radcliff would show up to collect the device. Does he? Is any mention made of this?! No. Instead, I've heard from other reviews that the new series is mentioned somewhere, which just makes me groan. While the new series is superficially related to Doctor Who it in no way is the same series and should not be referenced within a story set to take place in the classic series. I just feel like Robinson missed a huge opportunity in being able to explore a relationship to something that we were already aware of from a previous story but having our perception of it changed by the events of this adventure.

Finally, we have the portents for the future and the DJ stuff. As others have stated its likely the Doctor giving his past some pointers. I'd prefer the 7th Doctor since it's up his alley but have a bad feeling that once again it'll be new series cross pollination. Susan's lines at the end just sound melodramatic, and if we have to wait for the 11th CD (which I probably won't get) to get some explanation for it, then it seems like more of a waste. I'd have preferred a tighter overarching story than just vague portents leading through the series, but we'll see what happens.

In general I think that everything I've listened to in the last couple of months, since I've come back to BF has been better than this story. It's still by no means horrible but to paraphrase Susan: "We're only dealing with two inactive plot elements. Wouldn't it be more interesting if we dealt with two active plot elements? Then the references would happen by themselves and we could get on with something more interesting." :-)

Final Rating: 6/10

Recomendation: I found this story to be fairly dull and really only was interested in it from a historical context. That being said, I'm not a fan of "talking books" in general and prefer more of an audio-drama presentation even if it is limited cast, so that might have effected my viewpoint. I also felt that the references to the new series were a bit gimmicky and forced into the plot. That being said, this story is a fairly low continuity jumping on point for anyone interested in the early days of Doctor Who, and I feel that I should say that my wife thought that this was a much better story than I did. She's a big Susan fan, though, so especially if you want to hear some Carole Anne Ford and some further tales of Susan then this would be a good one to listen to. Personally, I would say that you can skip it.
Tags: alchemists, an unearthly child, audio drama, beginning, carole ann ford, destiny of the doctor, doctor who, farewell great macedon, first doctor, frayed, hunters of earth, nigel robinson, quinnis, remembrance of the daleks, season 0, sensorites, susan foreman, time and relative, transit of venus

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