Doctor Who: Technophobia [Big Finish–Tenth Doctor]

For years, Big Finish license to produce original audio material based on Doctor Who excluded them from including elements of the revival series which began in 2005.  But then a few years ago, that all changed, and now we have audio dramas coming out all the time featuring River Song, Missy, Jenny, Strax, and most significantly, the Tenth Doctor as played by David Tennant.  The company debuted his audio adventures a few years ago, with a series of three episodes co-starring Catherine Tate as his television companion, Donna Noble.  The first of these was Technophobia by Matt Fitton.

Technophobia.jpg

And a rousing and exciting good start it is!  The story appears to be a “technology goes crazy” plot, where SILVI, the voice interface for a new smartphone operating system, appears to be up to no good.  But the payoff of the story is a good deal more original and more intelligent than that.  Technology of all sorts does appear to be behaving in a sinister manner, but eventually the Doctor and Donna realize that the problem lies with the people.  Humans across the city are gradually losing their intelligence, so that their own inventions are becoming at first confusing, and eventually terrifying to them.  It’s all part of an alien plot to invade the planet by simply turning its inhabitants stupid, but the unique approach to their conquest helps to keep the story surprising and fun.  In particular, there is a very good moment where the Doctor realizes that he himself is falling prey to the same attack.

A real highlight of the story is the dialogue and interplay between the Doctor and Donna, and the performances of Tennant and Tate.  Their dynamic retains all the charm of their relationship from television.  Indeed, most of the adventure feels like it could have been an episode from Doctor Who‘s fourth season (which was one of its best).  It’s easily to visualize in my mind’s eyes pretty much the entire story, imagining it as an episode sandwiched between The Unicorn and the Wasp and Silence in the Library.  This isn’t always the case with Big Finish’s products.

The major letdown to the production is really the vocalization of the Koggnossenti–the invading aliens–themselves.  They have a hokey, high pitched tone which just sounds like some kids goofing around rather than a serious attempt to dramatize dangerous aliens.  I understand that conveying “alien-ness” just through audio would be challenging, but I can’t help but to consider this a failed attempt.

But overall, that’s a pretty minor drawback to an otherwise excellent audio drama, which is genuinely gripping  and though provoking and funny, just like the best Doctor-Donna adventures.

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