Prehistoric Week: Big Finish - Doctor Who THE DARK PLANET Review

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Andrew East visits the dawn of time.


The Dark Planet, one of Big Finish’s final season of Lost Stories, takes us back to the very dawn of time. The Doctor surmises that the planet they arrive on is far, far back in the past when the universe was new and all sorts of unusual things developed and evolved. The natives of this planet have phenomenal powers, way beyond anything seen in humans, even far into their future.

What impressed me about this story was how in keeping with the era it seemed. I could completely visualise the opening episodes with the TARDIS crew exploring this strange planet mainly due to it echoing similar scenes in stories such as The Web Planet and The Space Museum. As the story develops and we learn about the two distinct races it, again, echoed themes of stories such as Galaxy 4 and, again, The Space Museum. Fortunately these similarities with other Hartnell era stories serve to make The Dark Planet believable and of its time which is, ultimately, what the Lost Stories need to do, possibly moreso than the Companion Chronicles or the Main Range audios. I understand that Maureen O’Brien was convinced they had actually made this story for real in the 60s, so authentic is the script.

Admittedly, the plot is a little sparse but, in a way, it echoes the serials from Series 2 and 3 it is mimicking. There is a fair amount of toing and froing between the city of light and the dark shadow caves. I like how Vicki pairs up with a rebellious youngster from the light beings which has strong echoes of Susan and Ping-Cho’s relationship in Marco Polo, coupled with Vicki’s aiding and abetting of the young rebels in The Space Museum. The ‘good vs evil turned on its head’ theme is probably too like Galaxy 4 to seem particularly ‘new’ but it is given an added layer in that there is no definite ‘black and white’ to the two disparate groups of aliens – it is far more in shades of grey with us being allowed to understand the motivations of the light beings as well as the shadows.

William Russell and Maureen O’Brien do an excellent job, though, of maintaining the interest. I’ve never been convinced by Russell’s Hartnell but it serves its purpose. Likewise, O’Brien’s Barbara is fairly generic but, again, does what it needs to, to keep the story moving. They are ably supported by John Banks and Charlie Norfolk who give voice to various light and shadow beings.

Dating-wise it is made fairly explicit that this planet's story is happening in the earliest days of the universe when various evolutionary oddities are commonplace, such as these light and shadow beings. There is also the suggestion that the descendants of these aliens become a future intriguing mystery that the Doctor has heard of and until now not known the origins of.

Arguably there isn’t enough story in The Dark Planet to sustain six episodes (although the TV show of this era is often guilty of that) but I would still recommend it as worthwhile listening to any fan of the First Doctor's era.

A primary school teacher and father of two, Andrew finds respite in the worlds of Doctor Who, Disney and general geekiness. Unhealthily obsessed with Lance Parkin’s A History, his Doctor Who viewing marathon is slowly following Earth history from the Dawn of Time to the End of the World. He would live in a Disney theme park if given half the chance.

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