Doctor Who – Earth Aid (The Lost Stories) or, more accurately, a look back at the faux-season 27

The cover for Doctor Who: Earth Aid
Find It At

Big Finish

Written By

Ben Aaronovitch and Andrew Cartmel

Directed By

Ken Bentley

Big Finish Says

Welcome aboard the space vessel Vancouver. Its mission: to guard a vast shipment of grain from Earth to the planet Safenesthome. Its Captain is called Ace. She seems a little unsure of herself. In fact, some might almost think she was new to the job…

Its medical officer is called simply ‘The Doctor’, and he’s perhaps not all he seems either. When mysterious ships target the Vancouver, Ace and the Doctor are pushed to the limit. Meanwhile, there’s something nasty in the grain containers. And it’s not very happy…

Make it so

When all is said and done, these faux-season 27 stories have been a hit . . . but a qualified one.

The enigma of season 27 and of the Cartmel Master Plan hung around these stories. The potential of what might have been was ever present. As a result, my expectations were unfairly high. Everything I saw in the televised McCoy era didn’t quite translate to these audio stories. And why should they? Nearly thirty years have passed, and the energy of the show in 1989 cannot realistically exist in 2014. (Well, 2011.) The passion and anger of Cartmel and his writers, passion and anger directed at British politics in the late 80s, is muted. The anxiety of being responsible for the very future of Doctor Who is gone. What is left are 25 year old ideas, brushed off for scripting and presentation.

Earth Aid, as an end to these lost stories, works wonderfully. It wraps up a loose Metatraxi story-arc in a largely satisfying way. In Cartmel fashion, it gets a few digs with some social commentary. And the pastiche of Star Trek style science fiction was a lot of fun. Earth Aid was a nice, light end to an interesting but somewhat inconsistent run of stories. It fits quite well at the end of this pseudo-season. It has some holes and unanswered questions. (How, exactly, did Ace become a captain of a starship?) It would have been nice to have more character development where Raine is concerned. (What was up with her staying on Earth to grieve her father, but turns up again here with just a passing reference to her grief?)

But what is missing from this season is the maybe-god/maybe-not Doctor manipulating time and space against gods, monsters, and himself. There is nothing on the scale of Ragnarok or Fenric here. The closest we get is a sentient planet. I think Andrew Cartmel, in producing these stories, was more interested in making interesting stories from half-remembered script ideas. He wasn’t interested in reproducing how fans have read his era. And he didn’t seem interested in putting the “who” back in Doctor Who as he was in the 80s. He didn’t need to. That was done in the New Adventures novels.

And so, season 27 essentially becomes a divergent possibility. It is a divergent possibility that slips quite well into Big Finish continuity. This wasn’t such a bad move. I would like to see what this TARDIS team does free from the restrictions, the pressure, of season 27. (In fact, Big Finish’s UNIT Dominion features the Doctor and Raine.) But when it comes to lines of continuity, I am far more interested in seeing what happened in the novels. They picked up on the narrative threads. They picked up on the urgency and passion of the stories. And that is where I go next on my journey through Doctor Who.

Next stop: Timewyrm: Genesis.

Doctor Who – Remembrance of the Daleks

Doctor Who Story 152 – Remembrance of the Daleks

Written by

Ben Aaronovitch

What’s It About?

The Doctor and Ace have returned to Coal Hill School in 1963 to find two Dalek factions fighting over something the Doctor left in England a long time ago.

Unlimited rice pudding

A sinister-looking school girlRememberance of the Daleks is famous for re-inventing the Seventh Doctor era. Season 23 is often dismissed as silly and partially formed while season 24 is where the Cartmel Master Plan era begins in earnest. And while I think the seeds of the new expression are definitely present in season 23, I am struck by the subtle and not-so-subtle act of deconstruction in this season premier. In this story we revisit Totter’s Lane and Coal Hill School. We are given a secondary reason why the Doctor was on Earth, not just running from his people, but hiding the Hand of Omega, a powerful weapon. We see the destruction of Skaro, the Daleks’ ancestral seat. Much has been made of the deleted scene in which the Doctor tells Davros that he is more than just a Time Lord. The Doctor lets slip the possibility that he was present at the creation of Time Lord civilization in its current form. And we are given a military unit which is not-quite-UNIT but functions much the same. All these elements present in the same story mark a redefinition of the show, a grand statement of a new approach, a statement that season 23 was a test run to find our grounding, a warm-up before we open the throttle and begin the journey.