Doctor Who: The Ratings War [Big Finish]

The Ratings War, by Steve Lyons, is one of those stories one can get for free from the Big Finish website. It was originally given away as a gift to readers of Doctor Who Magazine–a special one-off story (just a bit over half an hour long) featuring the Sixth Doctor as played by Colin Baker.

(Daily Doctor Who #189)

Some of Doctor Who‘s strangest characters have been reserved for media other than television. This includes the likes of Frobisher (the shape-shifting companion who spent most of his time looking like a penguin) and a rovie (a time-mutated hyper-intelligent and disgruntled Gallifreyan mouse), and the main villain of this particular offering–Beep the Meep. Beep is a cruel and sadistic war criminal who has the evolutionary advantage of looking like a super-cute & cuddly animal. He first appeared in a couple of Doctor Who Magazine comics where he was defeated by the Fourth Doctor. One of them was adapted by Big Finish in an audio that I’ve only listened to the beginning of, and didn’t like very much.

Here, Beep is back, apparently having escaped somehow being trapped inside a Lassie film and using his hypnotic powers to take over a futuristic TV station. He has thus led the station to produce a steady diet of reality TV shows, with the latest, Audience Shares, to such dizzying popularity that its grand finale has 80% of the viewing audience (Beep murdering some of the competition helped as well). Beep’s plan is to beam a hypnotic message to his massive audience, turning them into an enslaved army of sorts, who will start by murdering everyone who didn’t watch, and then going from there.

Into all this comes the Sixth Doctor, who confronts Beep with what seems to be a weak sort of plan. I was prepared to be a bit annoyed at the lazy writing but then it turned out that the Doctor was really conning Beep, and then even double-conning him, tricking him into 1) not activating his mind-controlled army when he easily could have, and 2) causing him to act so reprehensibly on live television (without actually hurting anyone) that he loses control of his audience.

So in the end this slight little story turned out to be one of the more satisfying ones that I’ve heard, with a good performance by Colin Baker and the guest cast, a satisfying plot, and some funny little meta-commentary about television thrown in for good measure.

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