blogger_who (blogger_who) wrote,

Doctor Who: Destiny of the Doctor 03 - Vengeance of the Stones

Rewritten from material that I originally posted 10/8/13 on another forum:

Blurb: Two RAF fighter jets are on a training flight over North East Scotland when one of them is plucked from the air and promptly disappears. UNIT are called in, and the Doctor and Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart are soon on the scene. They enlist the help of a local military officer - a young lieutenant by the name of Mike Yates.

The Doctor discovers a link to the recumbent stone circles that are plentiful in this part of Scotland. The stones are thousands of years old, and are soon revealed to hold a terrible secret. Then Mike Yates disappears, abducted by an alien race that has a grievance with humanity. Their intention is to harness the power of the stones in order to take their revenge. For the Doctor and the Brigadier, the race is now on to save their new friend Mike and the entire planet Earth.

Format: Limited-cast "talking book" format. The story is read by Richard Franklin except for the part of Garlin, which is read by Trevor Littledale. Published by Big Finish Productions and Audio Go and released March, 2013.

Setting: Earth: Northeast Scotland. The exact year is obscure as dating the UNIT stories is always controversial. I suggest a date of 1970.

Continuity: The continuity on this story is a mess. Various suggestions have placed it either between Spearhead from Space and The Silurians, The Silurians and Ambassadors of Death, or Inferno and Terror of the Autons. I don't believe that the gap between Inferno and Terror of the Autons works as Mike is said to have been on cleanup duty after the Auton invasion. The gap between Spearhead from Space and the Silurians seems odd because the Doctor doesn't finish constructing Bessie until the latter story but Bessie is shown here. That means that the gap between The Silurians and Ambassadors of Death is most likely the correct one, despite the fact neither the Brigadier nor the Doctor brings up how similar this situation is to that in The Silurians. The fact that Liz isn't even mentioned is strange but can be explained by her taking care of some matters back at UNIT HQ while this is happening.

Canonicity Quotient: It was never going to be easy to do an origin story for Mike Yates with the various competing continuities for Season 7, but this is an especially hamfisted attempt. It almost boggles the mind how much continuity is voided between Mike's rank, Bessie, the lack of Liz, etc. This is the lowest canonicity score yet. 0.20

Discussion: The previous Destiny of the Doctors releases had left me a little nonplussed. I confess that I am not a fan of the "talking book" style of the narration and would have preferred something closer to the Companion Chronicles. I'm also not a big fan of the overarching theme of having the 11th Doctor interfere in his various pasts' lives. It feels very gimmicky and since I primarily listen to these audios to get new Doctor Who that isn't connected to the new series it's somewhat off-putting as well. Still I went into this one with an open mind as I had no idea what to expect as this was my first Pertwee audio and I was not familiar with the work of Andrew Smith. Other than a vague notion that the Doctor was going to have a battle of the bands with the Rolling Stones I didn't know what was going to happen until I listened.

The first thing that became apparent while listening to this story was how flat it was. I think that this is down to direction as I have listened to Franklin's other audios and this problem isn't there. The narration is incredibly flat. In fact it's so flat that it's really hard to tell when the switch occurs between one person talking and another. There's no pause. Franklin just reads the lines for one person and continues reading the other. There's also a lot of "he saids" and "she saids" thrown in but again no pause for the comma. It's just one flat, monotonous reading. Franklin livens up considerably when he's playing Mike but the narration is just so poorly done here that it makes listening to this a real slog.

It has to be said but I think that it's somewhat irresponsible in this day and age when summaries of all the TV stories, audios, and books are as close as your PC to write a story set in such a controversial period and about such a controversial subject and not to take some stab at taking a side in your story. There's no indication at all when this story takes place in Doctor Who cannon and rather than being a story that could take place in multiple places it almost seems as if the author carefully crafted his story to make any clues to the placement as contradictory as possible. The problem with this is that the characters' actions don't seem to make sense in context. For instance, many people have tried to shoehorn this story between Spearhead from Space and The Silurians. This makes sense from one vantage. In Terror of the Autons, Mike says that he helped them clear up the business with the Autons so his joining UNIT shortly after that story makes sense. The Hercules Jet from The Invasion is referenced and as we never see it again after that story it hints that this is a very early UNIT story. In fact I was expecting the jet to get destroyed in this story just as an explanation for why we never see it again. Liz's absence is a problem as it stretches credulity a bit that someone as heavy-handed as the Brigadier would not have dragged her along, which hints a post-Inferno setting. However, the real problem with this is that Bessie is in the story, which places it definitively post-Silurians. Here we come to another conundrum. You can squint past the Liz-absence. Maybe she was sick. But there's no way that if this story was set post-Silurians that the Doctor would not have brought up the similarities between this story and that one and would not have raged at the Brigadier for ruining his diplomacy with the aliens. Yet, to maintain any sanity with the TV series, it must take place here when there still might be some cleaning up needed from the Auton mess. Listening to the story, though, it feels as if the author is going for a post-Inferno feel, which if correct means that the TV series and other audios that have Mike at UNIT earlier have been ignored and that is very frustrating and makes it difficult to suspend our disbelief while you're listening to the story.

The whole recumbent stone circle thing fell a little bit flat with me. We've had enough about various stone circles over the years in Who and without. While this in itself doesn't necessarily make something bad it just fell flat. It just lost my interest.

On the other hand there were some great things about the story. Trevor Littledale's performance was excellent. I had to check the credits to make sure that it wasn't Peter Halliday. The voice was almost spot on and it gave me a good visual reference for Garlin. I also liked that the aliens weren't depicted as completely evil, which is a very Pertwee-era thing to do. The Doctor jumping at a chance to get into a jet was SPOT ON for Pertwee and made me grin like an idiot.

At the end of the day, I found this audio pretty underwhelming which has been par for the course so far. There were some nice Pertwee era elements and I did smile a bit but the story as a whole just wasn't very interesting and the flat narration made it really hard to get into things. Due to all that I gave it a 6/10. Overall I liked it but it could have been a lot better.

Final Rating: 6/10

Recommendation: Flat and seemingly dull. Trevor Littledale puts in a great performance but Richard Franklin just seems to be picking up a paycheck. I expected a lot from this story taking place in one of my favorite eras of the show and it just did not deliver. If you are a fan of the series your head will boggle at the various contradictions in place, which is incredibly distracting. The fact that the story is not that interesting is the final nail in the coffin. I'd suggest skipping this one.
Tags: ambassadors of death, andrew smith, audio drama, destiny of the doctor, doctor who, inferno, invasion, mike yates, richard franklin, season 7, silurians, spearhead from space, terror of the autons, third doctor, vengeance of the stones

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