Bang-Bang-a-Boom! is the 39th entry in Big Finish’s “Main Range” or “Monthly Range” of Doctor Who audios, this time starring Sylvester McCoy as the 7th Doctor, accompanied by Bonnie Langford as Melanie Bush. The story is largely a satire, set in an outer-space version of the Eurovision Song Contest, which is only a little stranger than the real Eurovision Song Contest seems to be at times.
(Daily Doctor Who #223)
Bang-Bang-a-Boom! has a few connections with another Doctor Who audio that I listened to a while ago, The One Doctor. Like that release, it came out in a December (2003, in this case), was written by Gareth Roberts and Clayton Hickman, and featured Bonnie Langford as Mel (neither she nor the writers had been involved with an audio in between the two). More specifically, the story was a deliberate comedy.
In addition to all the goofiness surrounding different inter-planetary music styles, the whole setting is a pastiche of Star Trek (and apparently Space 1999, although I’m less familiar with that), with the Doctor taking on the role of commander of a space station (“Dark Space 8”). And on top of that, the whole thing is an Agatha Christie-style murder mystery, with the Doctor relishing taking on the role of the detective.
The story does a great job pacing all of these elements into a listening experience that is not only humorous, but also a gripping narrative. Through all the silliness, there is a well-told mystery with an interesting stable of suspects which had me guessing from the beginning. And the ideas behind it are clever–the revelation that the Song Contest is a cover for a telepathic peace conference suddenly gives the whole story a sense of relevance, keeping it from being “just” a parody.
Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor pulls off an effective dry wit that fits in well with this story, and his pairing with Bonnie Langford works better than anything I remember from TV. Indeed, in both this and The One Doctor, Bonnie Langford is terrific, her character elevated by in Big Finish audio in much the same way Colin Baker’s Doctor is. Bang-Bang-a-Boom! has a good guest cast, but I want to give a special shout-out to Nickolas Grace (famous as the sheriff in Robin of Sherwood), who is particularly memorable as Loozly, the human translator for one of the song entrants who turns out to be responsible for the episode’s problems.
Bang-Bang-a-Boom! has a clever little “false ending” where the ending theme actually begins, before Mel interrupts and points out certain things have not been resolved. The story then pushes forward to another and more excited climax. And then, after the real end-theme, there is another brief scene which shows how one of the character’s life turns out. In a story as enjoyable as this one, the extra run-time is welcome.