September, 1991: the TARDIS brings the Doctor and Lucie to a town which seems to be frozen in time. With no electricity, nothing here has been cleaned for years, and the friendly locals have no problem with the idea that yesterday’s date was the same as today’s – just like tomorrow’s will be. Surrounding the town is a bleak desert, though everyone living there swears that the tide is out. One thing disrupts the calm here: armored vehicles routinely patrol the area, crossing the desert that shouldn’t be there, and all the locals have to do to avoid detection is stand still. Lucie is captured by one of the patrols, and discovers that their occupants seem fairly certain that it’s 2008. The Doctor, trying to track down a missing local girl, discovers that the town – and the desert – are actually deep inside the borders of Uzbekistan, and that the locals are anything but. They’re Autons who, without control from the Nestene Consciousness, have blended in to the point that they think they’re human. But somewhere in the desert, a Nestene control unit is trying to re-establish contact with its Auton army, and the innocuous townsfolk may justify the armed presence patrolling their home.
Cast: Paul McGann (The Doctor), Sheridan Smith (Lucie Miller), Derek Griffiths (Jason Taylor), Adrian Dunbar (McCarthy), Lorna Want (Sally Taylor), Nick Wilton (PC Sharp / Karimov), Katarina Olsson (Margaret / Vitas)
Notes: This marks the Autons’ first appearance in a Big Finish audio production; they had already appeared as both the first villain and the first classic villain in 2005’s Rose, the first episode of the new TV series. The Autons also inspired a trilogy of fan-made video productions in the 1990s, though the interpretation of them seen there is very different from either Rose or Brave New Town.
Timeline: after Max Warp and before The Skull Of Sobek
LogBook entry and TheatEar review by Earl Green
Review: A clever trip into the seldom-explored territory of the recent past, Brave New Town milks a lot of laughs out of little details that will hit cringe-inducingly close for many fans (i.e. the repeated mentions of Bryan Adams’ repetitive #1 song “Everything I Do, I Do For You”). Underneath that, though, lies one of the most inspired rethinks of a classic series baddie that anyone has graced us with in recent years – on television or off.
The notion that the Autons may not merely be “living plastic” – the quick and easy explanation rolled out in both the Pertwee and Eccleston eras – but may instead be living petroleum almost makes a lot more sense, given the organic nature of the latter. My mind instantly ran in about fifteen different directions with the implications of living petroleum, and this may well rank as my favorite story development of the eighth Doctor’s second “season” with Lucie. Good speculative fiction has that side-effect, and if I had a bunch of ideas about stories that could be told on the basis of this revelation, hopefully Big Finish’s writers did too – this deserves to be followed up on, even if the book is closed on those characters specific to this story. (It also nicely explains why the previously somewhat squid-like Nestenes are portrayed in Rose as a big vat of molten liquid.)
The guest cast portraying the sentient Auton characters alternate skillfully between the certainty of everyday routine and utter bewilderment when their circumstances begin to change around them; the soldiers from the outside world are stock characters, but those actors still manage to get some individuality in despite that. Brave New Town not only entertains the listener but provides a springboard for further contemplation of its central concepts – and that’s just good science fiction in a nutshell.