A radio broadcast unfolds live on the disant Colony 34, recounting the day’s events, including another in a string of terrorist bombings. The incumbent leader, Premier Leo Jaeger, denounces the violence, promises further crackdowns in the name of security, and openly accuses his opponents, the Freedom & Democracy Party, of being behind the attacks. The FDP’s new leader, known only as the Doctor, has a different story to tell: he criticizes the bombings, but also claims that Jaeger is trying to divert attention away from the upcoming elections that the FDP has forced through legal channels – elections that have been delayed for five years. Other news broadcasts profile the “Rebel Queen,” a young woman calling herself Ace who says she’s leading the resistance, and a bewildered paramedic named Hex who stumbles onto a secret during a live broadcast – a secret which could get Live 34 shut down by the government.
Cast: Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Sophie Aldred (Ace), Philip Olivier (Hex), Andrew Collins (Drew Shahan), William Hoyland (Premier Jaeger), Zehra Naqvi (Charlotte Singh), Duncan Wiseby (Ryan Wareing), Ann Bryson (Gina Grewal), Joy Elias-Rilwan (Lula)
Timeline: between Dreamtime and Night Thoughts
LogBook entry & review by Earl Green
Review: A format-busting Doctor Who take on Orson Welles’ adaptation of “War Of The Worlds”, Live 34 is an almost Swiftian approach to everything from talk radio and freedom (and accountability) of the press, to curbing freedom in the name of security. All in all, it’s not the most original story ever told – taking in elements of Soylent Green and modern-day political hot topics along the way – but with Live 34, it’s all about how the story is told. Sylvester McCoy, Sohpie Aldred and Philip Olivier practically take a back seat in this story, and the stars of the show are the radio announcers and the read-between-the-lines nature of their news broadcasts.
So does Live 34 tackle any big modern day topics? To be blunt: yes. And that’s the operative word there, for much of it is quite blunt. And just to throw you off, there are plenty of almost callously offhand references to collapsing buildings and unlocatable terrorist leaders to make you squirm. Will you be offended by Live 34? Perhaps. If you want to be. That’s really the litmus test – if you come to the story prepared to be pissed off by something, then there’s some small, oblique reference in here to piss off just about everybody who’s ready to be pissed off at an even vaguely political satire. You’ll be able to catch a whiff of the Patriot Act, Guantanamo Bay, and other hot topics here. Not that all of the criticism is aimed squarely at American politics though (it’s just that, being an American myself, those were the bits I caught on to first); there are just as many stabs at U.K. politics, the IRA, and even the turmoil among the Russian states. In short, if you found the new TV series’ politicized in-jokes distasteful in Aliens Of London and World War Three, stay right away from this one – it’ll make your head explode.
I did admire one thing, though: there are hints woven throughout the story of an alien influence on the proceedings, but it turns out that the Doctor and friends are the most alien influences to be found. The fall of Colony 34 has been the doing of avaricious, petty human beings for whom the ends always justify the means. In short, not the kind of monsters we normally get in science fiction, but the kind of monsters we have to keep away from the door today, here, in the real world. Which is what makes Live 34 all the more potent and unnerving.