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Audio Book Review
When the TARDIS is buffeted by “time slippage”, the Doctor experiences a terrible vision of the end of everything. Tracking the source of the disruption, he takes Amy and Rory to what appears to be an English public school in the 1950s - but as the friends are about to discover, there are some very unusual things about Darkstar Academy. For a start, the prefects carry guns. Then there is the strange forcefield that surrounds the perimeter. Not to mention the foot-long, crab-like creatures with spiny, armoured bodies... When the Doctor learns the truth about the Academy, he also discovers that the whole place is in terrible danger. But with a swarm of carnivorous creatures on the loose, what can the travellers do to prevent a terrible disaster...?
Darkstar Academy takes a number of familiar Who elements, such as a spaceship where one wouldn’t expect a spaceship to be, and some giant invading spiders (no, they are not the Eight Legs, in case you were wondering), and bolts them together without much apparent care or attention. Writer Mark Morris doesn’t really give sufficient reason why the academy is disguised as a 1950s boys’ school in the first place. For a while we are also lacking an explanation for why the spiders are attacking it. The latter is ultimately disclosed, but prior to that point the mystery is downplayed to such an extent that it seems as though none of the characters, or the author, is really all that bothered.
There is little of the horror that one usually associates with Morris’s work, though a few shivers are sent down the spine by Simon Hunt’s eerie incidental music.
Alexander Armstrong, who played Reg Arwell in The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe and Mr Smith in The Sarah Jane Adventures, also does his best to enliven the escapade as the reader (not Mark Morris as stated on the CD’s back cover). He is a talented voice artist, as adept at dramatic moments as he is at his better-known comedic roles, which is a good mixture for Doctor Who. He doesn’t do impressions as such (all the characters he has portrayed throughout his career have been recognisably him) but he nevertheless distinguishes the different voices and moods of the piece. Armstrong suggests Matt Smith’s Doctor without actually imitating him, and his Rory is good too, though he struggles with Amy’s accent.
The strengths of this academy adventure lie mainly with head boy Armstrong. As for the weaknesses... Morris must try harder.
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