23 May 2016

Review: Doctor Who - Technophobia

Words by Ryan Wigley

So here we are, a week after the release of Big Finish’s highly anticipated reunion of David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor and Catherine Tate’s Donna Noble. They’re widely known as one of the definitive TARDIS teams to grace our beloved show and, quite frankly, they’re *my* TARDIS team. So how do the three new stories stack up? Do Tennant and Tate still have it? Is it Saturday evening in 2008 once more? Allons-y!

The Tenth Doctor Adventures Volume 1 | Part 1: Technophobia

"Donna... We're on!"

The set opens up with a modern day adventure in London, a la the series openers of the mighty Russell T Davies, showrunner during Tennant and Tate’s era. Something light, slightly bonkers and set in the present day, pretty much designed entirely to introduce (in this case re-introduce!) that all important Doctor/companion dynamic. It’s a great way to open a series and it makes sense for writer Matt Fitton to adopt the familiar RTD structure.

The plot finds the Doctor and Donna visiting London for a glimpse into the future, specifically Meadow Digital, spearheaded by the youngest female CEO in Britain, Jill Meadows. People are losing control of her M-branded technology - MPad, MPhone, etc. - and she cannot control her own computer. Technology and science tend to be evil in most traditional stories, Doctor Who or otherwise, so it’s refreshing to listen to the story and find that it’s a mistrust of technology that is the key to the story, albeit prompted by the M tech itself. It paves the way for a few neat set pieces throughout the story, such as a hoover that kills or a lift that descends the building out of control. 

It hammers home just how much technology is used in our lives and the influence it has, as well as preventing the story from feeling too constrained by just focusing on phones, tablets and laptops. This fortunate as it could have ended up very similar to the newly-released In The Blood, a Doctor Who novel starring the Tenth Doctor and Donna, penned by Time Reaver writer Jenny T Colgan. Overall, the plot is very well paced and gives the Doctor and Donna plenty of time to shine, both on their own and together. And let’s face it, that’s the selling point of this story, if not the whole set.

The only things that let down Technophobia ever so slightly is the plot itself and the music. Personally, I think the story of this first Tenth Doctor story to star David Tennant is as good as RTD’s “Partners in Crime”, but the main difference is the latter takes up only a tiny bit of its running length, whereas Fitton dedicates the whole of his story to the plot and showcases the Doctor and Donna through that, rather than scenes that are perfectly standalone. Following on from this, the supporting characters in the story, Brian, Kevin and Lukas exist purely to aid in plot points, which is a contrast to RTD and his era, who would almost always strive to expand those minor characters that little bit further. As for the sound, I think the bare music suite of Technophobia clashes with the bombastic motifs of Murray Gold and I do think that’s noticeable throughout the story. As I said, both of the complaints are ever so minor and pedantic, it’s just that the whole story and production is authentic to the 2008 television series on every other level.

The Doctor and Donna are written absolutely perfectly and authentically, with both Tennant and Tate pitching their performances just right. The clear intent for Technophobia was to tick that box and hit the exact notes, and Fitton does so brilliantly with a fast paced and fun romp to boot.

Review: Time Reaver
Review: Death and the Queen

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