The Doctor and Peri pay a visit to a linguistic symposium in the future, to which the Doctor, legendary for his own viurtuoso verbosity, has a personal invitation. But things begin going horribly wrong soon after the TARDIS lands. Professor Osefer, an old friend of the Doctor who is due to deliver a keynote speech, turns up dead – apparently by her own hand – though the Doctor is mystified by her unusually misspelled suicide note. The campus artificial intelligence, designed to offer its adaptable, ever-growing database to students and experts alike, begins exhibiting murderous tendencies. The Doctor learns that a young man who has caught Peri’s eye may be the most diabolically dangerous man on the planet. And then all of the attendees begin repeating one thing, a suffix without a prefix, a syllable with barely any meaning of its own, the calling card of a malevolent intelligence bent on universal domination: ish.
Cast: Colin Baker (The Doctor), Nicola Bryant (Peri), Moray Treadwell (Book), Marie Collett (Professor Osefa da Palabra Hftzbrn), Oliver Hume (Symposiarch Cawdrey), Chris Eley (Warren)
LogBook entry and TheatEar review by Earl Green
Review: Though a densely-packed conceptual exercise, …ish is a fiendishly clever little Doctor Who romp written by Phil Pascoe, an Australian fan writer who stormed the “open script submission” gates of Big Finish Productions just like many other fans did early on. The beauty of …ish is that, rather than something that could have been done with just any combination of Doctor and companion, this story needs Colin Baker’s sixth Doctor alongside American sidekick Peri to work. (Why this combination of characters is vital to the story, I won’t divulge here for fear of giving away a pivotal scene.) Since the introduction of Dr. Evelyn Smythe as the sixth Doctor’s audio-only traveling companion, Big Finish has resisted pairing Baker and Bryant, but this time it’s absolutely necessary.
I have to take a moment here also to give credit to Nicola Bryant. I’ve occasionally criticized her in the past for occasionally letting her pseudo-American accent slip, dating all the way back to her reign on the TV series (1984-86). But here, in a script where it’s completely essential that she be able to sell the audience on Peri being an American, she pulls it off. And some much-needed expansion is given to Peri here as she actually flirts with a fellow visitor to the linguistics conference – something that, given her character background as a very attractive college student, you’d expect to see a little more of. It’s new, but it doesn’t seem forced or out of character.
The rest of the deceptively small cast is impressive as well, with Moray Treadwell stealing the show as the voice of Book. (And speaking of books, listen carefully to the cacophony of computer sounds in the background whenever someone’s talking to Book: you can hear the original BBC Radiophonic Workshop sound effect for the activation of the Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy!) The wordplay results in some insufferable puns, but being that the story is about words and language, it adds to the flavor rather than being a verbal red herring. This is the kind of clever story that Time Of The Daleks should have been – a bizarre and unconventional concept supported by an immensely clever script, rather than a weak story framing a one-note idea. Well done – please bring back Phil Pascoe, Big Finish! With so many members of the post-New Adventures “old guard” of authors writing the audio adventures, there’s a risk that it could all start to sound suspiciously like the novels (which I gave up on following quite some time back because of that very sameness). Seeking out new voices and fresh ideas like this helps keep things very lively.