This is the first Big Finish story by award-winning playwright, Timothy X Atack and it’s great to see that people from many creative backgrounds have been influenced by Doctor Who. Despite enjoying my Drama GCSE, I don’t get to the theatre very often and sadly couldn’t tell you if his theatrical background is evident in this story. What I can tell you is that it is a very entertaining bit of Doctor Who.
Wendy Padbury makes her first appearance in this series of The Early Adventures as Zoe. I wish they would split the series up more evenly: getting a Zoe story every two years is less than the character deserves. Zoe is joined, of course, but the Second Doctor and Jamie, both played wonderfully by Frazer Hines who bounces between accents at the drop of hat, which I am sure is something the Second Doctor would do (drops hats, that is).
Much like The Ark in Space (my favourite story), The Wreck of the World begins with the main cast exploring a derelict spacecraft all by themselves. It is so easy to forget that you are only listening to two actors when you hear the Doctor, Jamie, and Zoe bickering and getting exasperated with each other. They play off each other in such an engaging way. I could listen to hours of the three of them faffing about.
Not that there is much time for faffing. The plot constantly builds upon itself and introduces new elements. The ship’s very existence is a mystery at first until Zoe slowly unearths the history of the wreck and why such a large craft was left floating in space. Given that this is a Doctor Who story, at least one of the companions has to separate from the Doctor. Zoe spends the first episode alongside a small robot that appears to be losing its mind. I loved the way the robot talked – not quite human but full of personality.
The TARDIS team is eventually joined by a salvage crew as they search the ship. This ragtag group of odd balls reminded me River’s crew from Silence in the Library. There’s the brains, the muscle, the leader, the shy but very clever one. As usual, The Early Adventures manages to do so much with a small cast. I never felt like the two-hour running time was treading water or in need of new characters.
Jamie, Zoe, and the Doctor each gravitate to a particular member of the salvage team; Zoe, for instance, to young Twenty (Adam Newington), a man who had the same robotic-like brain programming that Zoe did. It is in these scenes that Wendy Padbury shows her brilliance. Despite the passing years since she played Zoe, they were still able to convey two young people who were awkwardly realising that they might like each other.
The Doctor spends a lot of time with the Professor Blavatsky (Richenda Carey), as they exchange theories and finish each other sentences. I think it is the sort of relationship that Zoe and the Doctor would have had, had she not be forced to leave his side.
Something that bothered me throughout the play was Atack’s use of the word, “companions”. He would often use sentences like “the two companions looked on” and it seems very odd for a Doctor Who drama to be using the vernacular of the fans, even for the sake of brevity. The Doctor doesn’t refer to them as his companions; just his friends. It was not a deal break for my enjoyment of the story though – it just stuck out.
Nonetheless, Wreck of the World makes an excellent end to another series of The Early Adventures. I can’t wait to hear more.
The Early Adventures: Wreck of the World is available from Big Finish for £14.99 on CD or £10.99 as a download.