Monday, June 13, 2011

A Life on the Ocean (Radio) Wave

Despite the exceedingly large back catalogue the Prof has of Big Finish audios that I’ve promised to listen to, I’ve been taking a bit of a detour into Nu-Who lately, inspired by our rather fun freebie “The Hounds of Artemis”. Having received a £5-off voucher for Audio Go, I decided to once again investigate what else James Goss had been up to. Perusing the extensive Doctor Who collection, I stumbled across “Dead Air”, a Tenth Doctor story which had won a best audio-book of the year award from The Audiobook Store (who?) in 2010. The sample sounded interesting, despite apparently having been recorded a fraction too slow, and for 49p (after using the voucher, obviously) I figured I couldn’t be robbed.

There’s a reason why the sample is too slow, which I won’t spoil for you; it’s another example of Goss playing with the story-telling format to give this audio-only story a little twist. There are overtones of “Blink” and “Empty Child” (no bad thing) in a variation on the base under siege story so beloved by Doctor Who writers over the years, when the Doctor lands on a pirate radio ship in 60s Britain hunting for an escaped super-weapon. There are also touches of Big Finish’s Sapphire and Steel (again, no bad thing), which all helps to create a claustrophobic atmosphere and the certainty that, as with so many of Tennant’s episodes, its all going to end really badly for someone.

Goss has captured the Tenth’s over-confident manner and glibness to a tee, including his incessant habit of saying sorry without ever actually meaning it, making this feel like a proper Tenth Doctor story. Now Tennant may not always have been my favourite incumbent of the role, but given the right director and story he could and did turn in some great performances. Which is what he does here, giving each of the characters a genuine voice (unlike his replacement, who needs a bit more practice at that sort of thing). Having said that, I enjoyed “The Hounds of Artemis” more, even though “Dead Air” has a much more interesting premise (now there’s perversity for you). Maybe it’s because I find Liverpudlian accents hard to cope with, or because our lovely mate Dave Bulmer had done a superb skit on the resolution mechanism in his "Festive Books on Tape" (here or here) last Crimble (completely unintentionally, it must be said), but “Hounds” just has more charm.

Even if you don’t have a fiver off, it is worth listening to and you will get repeat plays out of it if you want to catch all of the subtle sound effects. As with “Hounds” it’s not very long (almost an hour and a quarter), but if you enjoy Goss’ work, then it’s definitely one to add to the collection.


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