Saturday, August 11, 2012

The AudioVisuals

Once upon a time, some (really) young Doctor Who fans decided to do their own audio series.  At the time, the TV series was still in its original run (1963-1989), so the fact that they were able to produce these audios at such a young age, and in such (comparatively) primitive conditions (it’s relatively easy to slap an audio play together now) demonstrates two things:  how much they must have loved Doctor Who, and the grain of salt we should swallow when approaching any of these stories, some 20-30 years on.  Of course, some of them went on to professional careers within Doctor Who, but some probably grew out of it.  I’m talking, of course, about the AVs (Audio Visuals).  

The first story is The Space Wail, which introduces the AV Doctor (this time played by Richard Payne), his companion Greg, a schoolboy from Earth (Richard Marson), an alien girl named Nadia (Sally Baggs), with a guest appearance by Michael Wisher.  Directed by Gary Russell, The Space Wail is not really polished, nor can you expect it to be.  I wasn’t really convinced by any of the actors, but the script, as written by Warren Martyn, has some good ideas, especially the idea of the deranged but logical computer BABE (Marilyn Layton).  Also, in the “tape cassette notes,” Gary Russell reveals that “one of the actors had difficulty with a particularly long speech”—if you need eight takes, change the bloody script, don’t make the actor repeat it over and over!  I hope they learned that by the time they moved on to Big Finish, sheesh.

Things improve in the next play, The Time Ravagers.  It takes time not only to explain in story terms the change in direction for Nadia (still played by Sally Baggs but sounding very different—and better, in fact), but the change in actors playing the Doctor.  Uh oh, it’s Nick Briggs time.  Actually, I have to eat my words on this one—Briggs makes a decent audio Doctor, and is actually one of the strongest actors in the cast.  The explanation for his “regeneration” is very “Mawdryn Undead,” which is unsurprising given when this audio was made.  Although we will see that this is Briggs’ second recorded story at the Doctor; his first one, Connection, features a much less polished performance.

Overall, this benefits from a more interesting story and better characters, such as the annoying Captain Stride (Gary Russell) and scientist Okkerby (Deborah Marson) who resembles in some ways the character Todd from “Kinda.”  The story with the Daleks and the Temperon does go on for a bit, but you have to admire the Briggs!Doctor, as his character seems pretty assured even at this early stage (I have heard much less memorable fan!Doctors). 

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