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Audio Drama Review
A damaged alien computer is being guarded by UNIT troops, but they cannot understand how to operate it. Then the soldiers simply vanish... Usually in such a situation UNIT would call in the Doctor - but on this occasion the Time Lord is being kept out of the loop, because they know he would not want them to take advantage of the device. Instead, it is up to Elizabeth Shaw to oversee the project to repair this alien technology and, if possible, recover the missing men. Then Liz vanishes too. Trapped inside the machine, she faces a battle for survival against a lethal defence system. This time, Liz must save the day without the Doctor at her side...
Though the title of this story led me to expect cyberspace rather than miniaturisation lying at the heart of this computer-based escapade, Liz’s fate is not as surprising or as novel as some of the production team appear to think it is during the ten minutes of interviews at the end of the CD. Even by the time of Doctor Who’s seventh season, during which this tale is set, viewers had seen people being reduced to microscopic size to investigate innards in Fantastic Voyage, and it would not be long before the Doctor and Jo Grant found themselves similarly shrunk within a complex machine in Carnival of Monsters. Listeners may find, as I did, that they often work out what is going on sooner than Liz does, though that doesn’t necessarily detract from the enjoyment.
Another less than radical component of Eddie Robson’s story is a foreshadowing of Liz’s resignation from UNIT, which was never seen on television, and has been a feature of many prose and audio adventures featuring this companion.
Binary’s main innovation is one of presentation. Rather like Solitaire, this release is unusual for a Companion Chronicle because it is less like a talking book than a full-cast audio drama. Though it has a modest cast - Caroline John as Liz, Joe Coen as computer specialist Andrew Childs and Kyle Redmond-Jones as soldier James Foster - the only bit of narration comes right at the end. The rest of the tale comprises a series of duologues. Though the cast numbers three, we never hear more than a couple of them at any one time, making this two-parter a truly binary production.
The full-cast flavour is rendered a little less naturalistic by the device of Liz reading out on-screen messages from the Doctor. Though this affords the absent Time Lord a kind of presence within the adventure, Caroline John’s imitation of Jon Pertwee’s delivery is something that John the narrator rather than Liz Shaw the character would do.
Though Binary has its faults, they are not fatal system errors, so all in all this is a programme that is well worth running.