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Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who
Suburban Hell


Starring: Tom Baker
Publisher: Big Finish Productions
RRP: £10.99 (CD), £8.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 78178 350 4
Release Date: 31 May 2015

Somewhere in a suburb of North London, there’s a crisis. More than a crisis, a positive disaster. Belinda and Ralph are expecting four for supper, and there’s no Marie Rose sauce for the Prawns Marie Rose! All in all, the evening couldn’t possibly get any worse… Until the doorbell rings, bringing the Doctor and Leela to the dinner party. They’ve got a crisis, too – temporal ruckage has sent the TARDIS to another time zone entirely. Meaning they might have to endure a whole evening in Belinda’s company. But the Doctor and Leela aren’t the only uninvited guests tonight. Out in the road, there’s a strange fog falling. And in that fog are savage blue-skinned monsters. And it’s not Prawns Marie Rose on their menu – it’s people…!

In the interviews at the end of this CD, writer Alan Barnes makes no secret of the fact that this story is essentially Doctor Who meets Abigail’s Party. However, don’t worry if you haven’t seen the Mike Leigh play (I’m not terribly au fait with it myself), because Suburban Hell is very funny in its own right – as you might expect with talented actresses like Annette Badland (alias Blon Fel-Fotch Pasameer-Day Slitheen) and Katy Wix (Daisy in the sitcom Not Going Out) on board.

The source materials fit together neatly, because this range of audio adventures is all about conjuring an era of Doctor Who circa 1977, and Abigail’s Party was first performed in April 1977. Cue lots of references to kitsch décor (including a portrait of a lady with a peculiarly coloured face), dodgy fashions, fondue sets, and G & T with ice and a slice.

It’s not as straightforward as that, though, because of course this is Doctor Who. Moreover, it’s an Alan Barnes script. There is more to this dinner party than meets the eye, and that’s where the temporal ruckage comes into play…

Sometimes the stories in this range feel constrained by their single-disc format, but here the duration is just right. To me, this adventure seems very much like those amusing Gareth Roberts-scripted domestic episodes from recent television series, such as The Lodger, which I also loved. As in The Lodger, the Doctor gets separated from his TARDIS and cobbles together a device from mismatched bits and bobs – but then that sort of thing happens a lot in Doctor Who, so it’s not really a criticism.

Alan Barnes has laid on a thoroughly enjoyable party, and you’re all invited.


Richard McGinlay

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