Prehistoric Week: Big Finish - Doctor Who LORDS OF THE RED PLANET Review

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Andrew East sees red...


Lords of the Red Planet is a family affair. It’s all about the ancestors of the Ice Warriors and is to the race of Martians what Genesis of the Daleks is to the Daleks; Spare Parts is to the Cybermen and The First Sontarans is to….the Sontarans. The cast includes Patrick Troughton’s son and Wendy Padbury’s daughter. The plot revolves around a father and his two genetically engineered daughters. Family is key.

Lords of the Red Planet is a Lost Story which, apparently, was a contender for the slot eventually taken by The Seeds of Death. Both storylines were proposed by Brian Hayles and this unused story had two distinct proposals, both of which have been used to inform the Big Finish version.

The key to the Lost Stories is that they sound as if they are part of their era. I commented on how The Dark Planet felt like it had slipped straight out of Season 2/3 of the series with it’s strong echoes of Galaxy 4 and The Space Museum. Lords of the Red Planet is less of a fit for Season 6 although there are definitely echoes of The Krotons.

The Doctor, Jamie and Zoe arrive on Mars in the distant past and discover it is inhabited by the Gandorans. Their chief scientist is genetically engineering Ice Warriors (a name coined by the TARDIS crew in a slight temporal paradox) and his daughter is attempting to wipe out their entire race.

This is more or less it for six episodes and I did feel it dragged rather. I ended up listening to the episodes punctuated by other podcasts which is rare for me. I tend to listen to the stories continuously (over a number of days on my way to and from work, but not listening to anything else in between). This story simply didn’t grab me and I found very little actually happened. There’s a fair amount of running around in mines; a lot of angst on the part of the scientist Quendril; and lots of Zaadur, his insane, genetically engineered daughter, sweeping around the story declaring her superiority and how she is going to destroy everyone else and set off to invade Earth.

Frazer Hines and Wendy Padbury are entertaining readers and Hines’ Troughton impression is good enough to carry the Doctor’s part through the story. Sometimes, though, I think he focuses too much on Troughton’s particular tics and at times it becomes obviously Hines. At others it was easy to forget it was Hines and I think this was when he was not trying too hard. Padbury, likewise, seems to try too hard to make her voice sound younger consequently making it sound like an older woman doing a young voice; with it tending to crack quite a lot.

Nick Briggs is on Ice Warrior duty. He plays the Ice Warriors, the proto-Ice Lord Aslor and the failed experiment Risor. I know many complain about Briggs’ ubiquity and I am one who has found Briggs’ voice to be a distraction in many a story when he crops up in a small role. However, credit where credit is due, his distinction between each of these voices is good. Risor, in particular, is a great performance and I actually had to check it wasn’t Briggs.

As I said at the start of the review, this is a family affair. Michael Troughton, Patrick’s ‘other’ son, plays Quendril and Wendy Padbury’s daughter, Charlie Hayes is Veltreena, the young spoilt princess. Both are very good in their roles, as is Abigail Thaw as Zaador, particularly as she is mainly required to flounce around ordering death and threatening various people. There isn’t a huge amount of depth to her villain role, but then in Doctor Who, there rarely is.

For me, this was one of the less successful Lost Stories – the rather epic scope means it doesn’t fit well into the era – I can’t quite imagine the massive earthquakes and city-wide destruction depicted in the latter episodes being well-realised on a 60s TV budget. Also, as a ‘Genesis of the Ice Warriors’ I found it a bit underwhelming (and slightly at odds with how the race – with all its nobility and honour – has been developed in other stories). Big Finish’s other ‘genesis’ stories have been more successful than Lords of the Red Planet, and so it’s definitely not one of my favourite of this range.

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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