Doctor Who: THE RUNAWAY TRAIN Review

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Andrew East looks back at the first audio story featuring the Eleventh Doctor...


Single voice audio is a medium I just don’t enjoy very much. It’s nothing to do with the quality of the performance or the production values. I just find them difficult to focus on. I tend to listen to the audios on my journey’s to and from work, along with washing up duties. My attention isn’t usually in many other places when doing these activities but I find my mind wanders too easily and then I lose the thread. A few times during this audio I found myself realising I had missed something saliant. How did the Doctor know about the alien spaceship? Why are they getting on a train. Why does the Confederate officer decouple part of the train?

The story opens with the 11th Doctor arriving in the middle of nowhere at a train station. Three men are waiting for him. An outlaw, a confederate army deserter and a train driver. They already know the Doctor and Amy but the Doctor and Amy don’t know them. Before I knew it, the five of them were heading to a Confederate camp and liberating a wagon carrying a strange alien device. After some argy-bargy at the station, the device is aboard a train and heading for a broken bridge, the Confederate soldiers decouple the part of the train Amy is in, the Doctor disarms the device (which will turn Earth into planet impossible for humans to live in), an alien spaceship crashes into the desert and the Doctor and Amy head off to recruit the three guys who met them at the beginning of the story!

Er.

I really didn’t get into this story at all. I do have a pathological dislike for anything set in the American West (especially Westerns) and although this isn’t a Western, it is strongly steeped in that atmosphere – wagons, trains, outlaws. At the end of the story I only had a vague grasp of what the plot had been and it seemed to me (possibly because of my habit of zoning out of single voice audios) that some extreme leaps of logic kept happening.

Matt Smith is a good reader. His American accents are convincing (his Amy less so – he keeps seeming to start a Scottish accent and then bottling it half way through a line) and I love it when he reads the Doctor’s lines. In isolation like this, it really throws his performance into sharp relief and I have to admit that he has rapidly become one of my favourite Doctors.

Historically, this is more about the trappings of the period than anything factual. The Confederate officer, Brit, is fairly stereotypical, as is the outlaw, Vin. None of the other characters really stand out. Bernado is a cliched young deserter and the train driver doesn’t really have a character to speak of.

I may have gone into The Runaway Train with the wrong attitude – my dislike of single voice audios and Westerns colouring my opinion before it even got a chance to start – but it did little to adjust my expectations.

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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