…just then, the “other” Doctor and Melanie arrive on the human colony planet Puxatornee, discovering that the alien Slithergees have all but taken over, using humans are seeing-eye dogs and servants, and even edging human traditions, history and beliefs out of the humans’ own teachings by way of claiming rampant anti-Slithergee discrimination. Two terrorists, Stewart and Reed, are out to restore the balance and put the humans in charge again, and when they discover that the Doctor and Mel are time travelers, they force the TARDIS crew at gunpoint to take them back in time to change history. But the history they bring about is one where the Slithergees were refused permission to settle in the Puxatornee system, resulting in a war that left the planet permanently contaminated. Stewart and Reed are killed, and the Doctor makes a hasty exit, worried about encountering his and Mel’s counterparts from the divergent timeline that has been created. Just then, the “other” Doctor and Melanie arrive on the doomed planet Puxatornee, where two soldiers, Stewart and Reed, wish to change history so the human-Slithergee war never fatally polluted Puxatornee. When they discover that the Doctor and Mel are time travelers, they force the TARDIS crew at gunpoint to take them back in time to prevent these events. But the history they bring about is one where the Slithergees were granted permission to settle and slowly took over. Stewart and Reed are killed, and the Doctor makes a hasty exit, worried about encountering his and Mel’s counterparts from the divergent timeline that has been created…
written by Jonathan Morris
directed by Gary Russell
music by David Darlington
Cast: Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Bonnie Langford (Melanie), Richard Gibson (Mitchell(, Daniel Hogarth (Slithergee voices), Trevor Littledale (Potter), Francis Magee (Stewart), Trevor Martin (Professor Capra), Pamela Miles (Bailey), Audrey Schoellhammer (Reed)
Timeline: between Bang-Bang-A-Boom! and Dragonfire
LogBook entry and TheatEar review by Earl Green
Review: In a year full of attempts at new and innovating storytelling structures – flashbacks, musicals, multi-Doctor stories, and Memento-esque events-told-out-of-sequence, Jonathan Morris’ Flip Flop stands out as the most successful experiment. In his writers’ notes, Morris confesses that he had to have a flowchart of the story’s mobius-looped timeline handy when he pitched the idea, but the result of that careful plotting is an absolutely brilliant story. Flip Flop can indeed, as the advertising promised, be listened to in either order – or both – yielding slightly different results. Everything ties off neatly, and while there are a very small number of convenient leaps of logic in the story, generally speaking Flip Flop is plotted very tightly.
The casting is actually rather bland this time around, with only Trevor Martin – who, coincidentally, once played the Doctor himself in the London stage production of “Doctor Who and the Daleks in Seven Keys To Doomsday” – standing head and shoulders above the rest of the guest players. That said, the decision may have been taken to minimize the actual performance dynamic of Flip Flop somewhat to allow listeners to focus on the plot. Whether or not that helps or hurts things is really up to the individual listener – for my part, I actually found it difficult to distinguish some of the male voices at times (aside from Martin’s almost Orson-Wellesian rumble).
There’s a bit of sly political commentary in here as well, with the scenario portrayed on the Slithergee-occupied Puxatornee striking a bit of a resonant chord. It’s played more for laughs than anything, but some listeners (and this really depends on how they feel about the issue) may have their reverse-discrimination sensibilities inflamed. The idea of an alien invasion by way of political correctness is almost too delicious to leave without further exploration. And on that note, it’s also interesting the degree to which your chosen listening order can shape your impressions of the characters and their situations – and Big Finish makes it impossible to determine a “correct” running order, packaging Flip Flop as two CDs in individual slim jewel cases in a classy slipcase: one CD black, the other white. Even any significance you might try to read into that won’t lead you to a definitive beginning, but both sides of the story do have a definitive end, at least one that allows the Doctor and Mel to continue their travels even if it doesn’t bode well for anyone else in the story.
Excellent stuff, and brilliantly plotted. Right up there with Doctor Who and the Pirates for rising to the top of the 2003 lineup of Doctor Who audios.