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Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who
A Life of Crime


Starring: Sylvester McCoy
Publisher: Big Finish Productions
RRP: £14.99 (CD), £12.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 78178 889 9
Release Date: 31 July 2016

Come to Ricosta! Tropical climate, untouched beaches, fabulous cuisine… and no extradition treaties. The perfect retirement planet for a certain type of ‘business person’ – such as Ms Melanie Bush, previously the co-owner of the Iceworld emporium, now on the run from her former criminal associate’s criminal associates… Some other former associates of Ms Bush are abroad in this space Costa del Crime, however. Not long ago, the time and space traveller known as the Doctor arrived here, alongside his sometimes-criminal associate, the reformed juvenile offender Ace. But now the Doctor’s gone missing – and Melanie Bush is about to learn that on the planet Ricosta, the wages of sin… are death…

Once again Big Finish is reuniting Doctor Who companions who weren’t together for long enough – by which I don’t simply mean reuniting the actors who played them in adventures set before their characters left the series. As with Nyssa in several recent audio adventures with the Fifth Doctor, Tegan and Turlough, the producers have engineered a situation whereby the Seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) and Ace (Sophie Aldred) cross paths with Mel (Bonnie Langford) years after they last saw one another on Iceworld. The Seventh Doctor’s two television companions, who teamed up all too briefly in Dragonfire, are side by side again.

Theirs was – and is again – an interesting dynamic, as the two actresses remark in the 12 minutes of interviews at the end of Disc Two. Ace is impulsive, all too ready to rush headlong into rash action, whereas Mel is more logical, more considered. However, both woman have changed during their years apart, and both manage to surprise each other in this reunion adventure. Ace has learned how to pilot the TARDIS, while Mel, as an unintended result of her association with the crook Sabalom Glitz, seems to have ended up on the wrong side of the law and with a dodgy moral compass.

Glitz himself does not appear (perhaps Tony Selby, who played him on TV, is not interested in reprising the role, which is a pity). However, the character is mentioned so frequently in Matt Fitton’s script that you can almost feel his presence on a number of occasions.

Less successful is the ruse of an alleged female incarnation of the Doctor (played by Ginny Holder), who has supposedly regenerated from the Seventh Doctor. The phoney Doctor trick has been played on us before, in The One Doctor and The Next Doctor, to name but two. Some instances have even involved female incarnations, most notably the Seventh Doctor comic strip Who’s That Girl! and, briefly, the episode Death in Heaven. I had a similar notion myself some years ago, back when Sylvester McCoy was still the most recent Doctor, when I submitted a proposal for a New Adventures novel entitled Selfless, in which a young woman would think that she was a newly regenerated Doctor (but was in fact the victim of a mind-swap). The idea was rejected, so don’t go looking for it in the shops!

Nowadays, of course, everyone knows that Sylvester McCoy regenerated into Paul McGann, and Fitton is aware that his listeners aren’t really going to believe that Holder is the Doctor. Therefore, he ends his opening episode not with the woman’s claim to Time Lord status but with a cutaway to the Seventh Doctor in peril – very much still with us, but perhaps not so for very much longer… It’s as if the writer is saying to us, “Look, you and I both know she can’t be the Doctor… so what on Earth is going on?” He has some fun with the concept along the way, including a sardonic comment about faking a regeneration with a wig and a few special effects – a reference to McCoy donning a Colin Baker wig at the start of Time and the Rani.

In a similar satirical vein, the dire financial straits of the planet Ricosta are an obvious parody of the Greek bail-out, and there’s also a level of pastiche in the music of Fool Circle Productions, which is reminiscent of the work of Keff McCulloch and Dominic Glynn, but more industrial.

A crime against grammar: the word marinade should not be used a verb as it is in A Life of Crime. Marinade is a noun, referring to a liquid mixture in which an ingredient is soaked prior to cooking. The verb form is marinate – i.e. you marinate something in a marinade.

The situation on Ricosta slightly outstays its welcome, so this story might have worked better as a three-parter. Nevertheless, it’s an interesting start to a new set of adventures with Ace and Mel – the (new) beginning of a beautiful friendship…?


Richard McGinlay

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