Audio Drama Review: ‘Doctor Who: The Seventh Doctor Adventures – Silver And Ice’’

by Rachel Bellwoar

The Seventh Doctor Adventures Silver and Ice
Directed by Samuel Clemens
Starring Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor) and Bonnie Langford (Mel)

Something old (Ribos). Something new (Brightedge). Something blue (the TARDIS). A review of the Seventh Doctor’s latest Big Finish adventure.

Cover Art by Caroline Tankersley

Bad Day in Tinseltown

The Doctor and Mel might not have set out, intending to visit Brightedge, but their timing is never less than impeccable.

Unable to survive as a mining town much longer, despite their mayor (Dan Starkey) saying otherwise, Galactic Central has laid out Brightedge’s options as follows: either adapt and become a tourist planet or evacuate.

It’s a suggestion that doesn’t entirely make sense. Brightedge is basically the Bate’s Motel of planets – inconveniently located, with no natural attractions, so why turning the planet into a resort would seem like a viable option is hard to understand. It’s not like Sanditon. There aren’t any beaches.

The title of this story doesn’t completely mesh with the story Starkey (who also wrote Bad Day in Tinseltown) is telling either (though it is a great title). Bad Day in Tinseltown promises a Western mixed with old Hollywood, and some of the musical cues do invoke a Deadwood-like setting. There’s also the major plot point of Mitzi’s saloon reopening, which provides the entertainment angle, but most of the characters are miners, not gold prospectors, and that’s a different vibe to the Wild West of cowboys and gunslingers. Sometimes it feels like Starkey wants the West where a dual could go off at any moment but it’s the no-thrills, working class West that’s more interesting here.

As for “tinsel” (the material the miners are drilling for), it’s not the easiest thing to visualize. It sounds like Christmas decorations but it’s being used for a wide variety of products. It’s the tinsel that has the Doctor concerned and he and Mel spend most of the story split up, with Mel pretending to be a journalist covering the saloon while the Doctor carries out his own investigation. It feels like one of the series’ more deceitful cover stories, because Mitzi (Jasmin Hinds) believes Mel, and is excited about the publicity.

One thing that listening to the interviews at the end helped make clearer is why there are so many different accents among the guest stars. According to story editor, Matt Fitton, they were trying to evoke the stunt casting that took place when John Nathan-Turner was producer on Doctor Who.

“Bad Day in Tinseltown” does involve a classic Doctor Who baddie, so fans will want to listen for that, but if the Doctor and Mel don’t return to Brightedge anytime soon, that would be ok.

The Ribos Inheritance

On the other hand, the Doctor and Mel can visit Ribos anytime (and, of course, the Doctor has been there before). “The Ribos Inheritance” is writer, Jonathan Barnes’ unofficial sequel to “The Ribos Operation.” It’s completely accessible to new fans, though (as I can attest, having never seen the Tom Baker serial) and works just as well as a standalone story.

This time the Doctor and Mel did mean to visit Ribos but, while they were supposed to arrive in the summer (Ribos only has two seasons), it’s winter and the TARDIS has made the ill choice of parking on a frozen lake. From there a lot goes wrong (Barnes’ “out of the pot, into the fire” approach to storytelling means listeners are constantly kept guessing) but, once things settle down, the Doctor is determined to figure out what’s caused the seasons to go haywire. At the same time there’s a war brewing between the King (Homer Todiwala) and the rebels who live outside the city. Barnes never lets listeners get too comfortable and it’s a constant toss-up, who the good guys and bad guys are.

The best part about The Ribos Inheritance, though, is how well the secondary characters are served – particularly Garron (David Rintoul) and Sandarr (Vivienne Rochester). It’s a true testament to how good Rintoul and Rochester are that at first you have the usual splitting up of the Doctor and Mel, so there’s time to get to know the secondary characters but with a familiar face in tow. By the second half of the story, though, Garron and Sandarr are carrying scenes by themselves. The confidence the story shows in them is well-earned.

The only plot point that might’ve landed better on TV than an audio-only format is the reveal of King Kari’s backstory, but otherwise keep an ear out for nods to The Wizard of Oz and Game of Thrones.

Silver and Ice is available to purchase from Big Finish.

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