The Middle offers a fun and engaging slice of Sixth Doctor action, with a mix of the old and the new. The ‘old’ encompasses Sixie coming up against Big Business with a moral message running through the story that human beings matter, and not money or the corporate greed behind it. The ‘new’ side of things offers a stronger story than the 1980s John-Nathan Turner era provided, with engaging characters and sensible plotting.
What the listener is offered is a glance at how the world starts to change when one comes to a certain age, in this story’s case: 35. Now, let’s not be silly, 35 is a fine young age to be but for many it’s around that time when tastes change and life really begins. This is never more true than in The Middle, a place where people are free to doss around and have fun with absolutely no responsibilities until their 35th birthday. Once that day arrives, it’s off to work in the eponymous Middle, where a war is being waged.
Sounds Orwellian, doesn’t it? And yet writer, Chris Chapman manages to tell the story from both sides of the coin. The Doctor has his, quite deserved, moral outrage when it comes to finding out what is really happening to those above 35, but the middle men and the suits behind the horror and the money have their own reasoning for doing what they do. Of course, the Doctor is completely correct in his assertions as to the morally correct solution, but the point of view from the other side is an interesting one, opening up an interesting moral question of who is suitable for war.
Performance wise, Colin Baker, as one would imagine, is perfect as ever as the Doctor. His timing, comedy, and warmth continues to impress some 34 years from his debut. Mark Heap impresses with his oozy Middleman character; he’s not only sharp but slimy throughout the entire adventure. There’s a light ‘boo-hiss’ pantomime feel to him, but that in no way hurts the drama at the heart of this piece.
Stand-out performances for this particular tale, however, goes to Lisa Greenwood and Miranda Raison as Flip Jackson and Constance Clarke respectively. The two together are as interesting as any TARDIS team has been. They’re almost polar opposites, not just in terms of age but background as well, which makes for interesting travels. There’s also plenty of affection in their engagement on one another – the culture differences may be vast but the tenderness the two actors display towards one another whilst in character is palpable.
The Middle is a very strong audio adventure, and continues a fine run of adventures for the Doctor, Flip, and Mrs Constance Clarke, leaving this listener eager for more.
The Middle is out now from Big Finish, priced £14.99 on CD or £12.99 as a download.