On a distant outpost of Earth, a group of terraformers is under threat from the planet's most fearsome predator: the giant carnivorous Farakosh. All that stands between the colonists and a grisly death are the Exotrons - huge robots equipped with devastating firepower, designed by the outpost's leader, Major Taylor. But all is not as it seems. How are the Exotrons being controlled, and where did the colonists find the resources to build them? The Doctor wants answers, but Taylor is reluctant to provide them. Meanwhile, outside the compound, the Farakosh are massing...
Oops, I guess I spoke too soon! In my recent review of Renaissance of the Daleks, I stated my opinion that, with a respectable run of releases over a whole year, the Fifth Doctor's audio adventures were going through a renaissance of their own. However, this CD marks a bit of a downturn.
Don't get me wrong, Exotron is a decent, solid, three-part story (penned by Paul Sutton). It just doesn't excite me very much. We've had a lot of sinister robots in the Who audios lately, and any new listeners might also get the impression that the Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison) and Peri (Nicola Bryant) only ever materialise on sandy planets (this adventure takes place between their only two television adventures together, Planet of Fire and The Caves of Androzani).
Perhaps with those new listeners in mind, the production team has so far avoided using any non-television companions in the audios since it revamped the series with its new-style cover design. So there's no Erimem here, no Evelyn in the recent Sixth Doctor audio I.D. / Urgent Calls, and the Seventh Doctor will be travelling alone in his next two adventures.
John Duttine (The Day of the Triffids TV series) is frequently rather OTT as the unstable Major Taylor, though the performances of the rest of the cast, including Isla Blair (Doctor Who: The King's Demons), are all good.
Talking of OTT, musician Andy Hardwick lays it on very thick during a piece of exposition in Part One, for reasons I can't understand. Was there noise on the take and no other way to cover it up?
In an expensive restaurant somewhere on Earth, three gourmets plan their evening. The first item on the menu: the death of the Doctor. But as they discuss the situation, why are they unable to get their stories straight...?
The single-part bonus tale, Urban Myths (also written by Sutton), is far more enjoyable. There's lots of fun to be had as three members of the Celestial Intervention Agency (Steven Wickham, Douglas Hodge and Nicola Lloyd) sit around the table in a bistro and discuss a recent incident involving the Doctor.
Cue three very different recollections of the same event, each one getting gradually closer to the truth. Davison and Bryant alter their performances accordingly, ranging from sinister to their usual genial selves. Think of the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode A Matter of Perspective and Star Trek: Voyager's Living Witness and you'll get some idea of what to expect.
The extra features include ten minutes of a sometimes tedious, but spoiler-free, tube journey to the recording studio made by executive producer Nicholas Briggs at the end of the first CD and 25 minutes of interviews at the end of the second. These interviews include some very funny comments by Richard Earl, who plays Corporal Mozz and other roles in Exotron. In fact, there's so much extra material here that I wonder why, in such situations, Big Finish doesn't place the entire three-parter on the first disc, with the single-parter and the extras on disc 2.
This double CD isn't bad. It's just not quite up to recent Fifth Doctor standards.
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