The Song of Megaptora is the penultimate adventure in Big Finish’s inaugural “Lost Stories” season, made up of stories that were initially written or proposed for the TV series, but were never produced. In this case, the history is pretty convoluted, as The Song of Megaptora started as a comic story featuring the Fourth Doctor before being rewritten for TV featuring the Fifth Doctor (and introducing Turlough!) and then again for the Sixth Doctor.
Like the other stories in this season, it’s Colin Baker’s Sixth Doctor who stars in this version, along with Nicola Bryant as Peri, and the plot deals with them facing off with a space-ship full of whale-hunters–giant space-borne relatives of earth’s aquatic mammals. These creatures, known as Galeen, “swim through time”, and the hunters use various technological means to bring them “to the surface”. Incidentally, both the original version of this story and the existing audio version were both produced prior to the Season Five episode of the revival series, The Beast Below, so the whole idea of space whales (or “Star Whales” as they are known on TV) showed up here first.
Anyway, not surprisingly the Doctor comes into conflict with a variety of colorful characters from this whaling crew, especially the embittered working class Captain Greeg, played by John Benfield. The Doctor of course sees that the Space Whales are beautiful animals that need to be protected, while Greeg and the ruthless company that he works for are only interested in personal and corporate profit.
And meanwhile, there is yet another creature–a fungal-based life form who also hunts the whales, but using more mystical means. His race is a bit inspired by real-life Polynesian culture. There is also, in a weird twist, a group of deranged castaways living inside the whale, whom the Doctor and Peri run afoul of, plus a computer that goes through different random personality shifts, a conflict between Captain Greeg and his company, and other bits and pieces.
The script by Pat Mills–a noted comic book creator who played a significant role in developing Judge Dredd amongst other things–does a good job juggling all these elements. The fungoid-based creature ends up serving the role of the basic “monster” of the story and ends up being the least developed, as he is abruptly killed off at the 3/4 mark, in favor of the other things.
But in spite of this small missed opportunity, the story is consistently entertaining thanks largely to to how strong the characterization is. Now, to be clear, the characters as established by the plot are actually fairly generic, but they are given a lot of life in the dialogue. It’s evident Pat Mills understood that he was adapting his story for audio, because he took the time to really play to the medium’s strengths to give each moment personality and energy. Particularly notable is the humorous double act of two otherwise forgettable security guards played by Toby Longworth and Alex Lowe, as well as a bunch of nonsense that Peri gets to belt out when she’s delirious at one point.
Anyway, the story arc of The Song of Megaptora isn’t anything really surprising, but the loopiness of the ideas on hand, combined with the intelligence of most of the storytelling, make this a pretty enjoyable story and one of the better “Lost Stories” for this listener.