Not long ago, I bought a season of Big Finish Fourth Doctor adventures starring Tom Baker, but I decided to finish blogging about all the stories I’ve already listened to before embarking new ones. After listening to the stage plays recently, I thought I was just about done with that process…but them I discovered that I actually have four more “Lost Stories” to get through. I’d previously listened to Paradise 5…but I’m not sure if I’ve ever listened to any of the others. We’ll find out soon enough.
The Lost Stories, for the uninitiated, are all based on scripts that were written or partially written for the series back in the day that were never produced. Most of this first season of such stories were written for Season 23 of the program, but were then abandoned when all the plans changed in favor of the 14 part story The Trial of a Time Lord. Paradise 5 is a bit different—it was originally a story for Season 23, but was actually written to be part of Trial…, but was cancelled in favor of the story that came to be subtitled Terror of the Vervoids.
In this adapted-for-audio-decades-later version, the actual “Trial” sequences from the original script were wisely abandoned, in favor of a brand new opening episode to explain how the Doctor and Peri get to Paradise 5, an exclusive holiday resort where something sinister is going on. The Doctor and Peri go undercover, Charlie’s Angels-style, in order to investigate. They eventually discover that the guests of Paradise 5 are really being psychically screened for suitability to have their minds elevated to be mental foot-soldiers for an interdimensional war, with their bodies being left behind, devolved into mentally-impaired shriveled baby creatures.
So…quite a good plot, really, with some clever and poetic dialogue by original writer P.J. Hammond and modern writer Andy Lane–but with some obvious flaws as well. The first episode was added later, as I mentioned, and though the individual scenes are all fine, and it sets up the context for the story, it’s clearly almost entirely inconsequential to the actual plot. The whole time is really spent just getting the Doctor and Peri to the adventure, rather than having them in it. Strangely, this was a problem you sometimes saw in the original Doctor Who of this period.
Another issue with the production is the realization of the “Cherubs”—the strange shriveled pseudo-humans that do the grunt work of Paradise 5. It’s a strange thing—the big problem with the original show was often the realization of the monsters. In these audio adventures, the problem is still there—how do you bring to life a bunch a race of semi-intelligent, chirpy, grunty semi-human creatures? It’s really challenging to pull off without sounding like someone just making funny noises—and that’s exactly what they sound like here.
Paradise 5 gives Peri quite a good part, which is nice. Both Nicola Bryant and Colin Baker do a fine job in the story. Alex Macqueen does a great job playing the flamboyant Gabriel—the main villain of the piece—and James D’Arcy is also good as Gabriel’s partner Michael. The other guest characters—Peri’s fellow hostesses and the various guests at Paradise 5—are less interesting.
Overall, a mixed bag within the Lost Stories range, but leaning toward being one of the good ones.