On Phobos, one of the moons of Mars, tourists engage in a wide variety of extreme sports. Key to the thrillseekers is bungie-jumping into a wormhole found on the surface. But there’s a problem: tourists keep disappearing or winding up dead. Kai, who runs the place with his longtime girlfried Eris, says it’s all caused by monsters from the wormhole and tries to warn everyone away, to no avail. But tensions among the guests begin to run high and even Kai himself seems somehow tied in to the danger. When the Doctor and Lucie show up, things begin to come to a boil and it’s anyone’s guess who’ll come out alive.
Cast: Paul McGann (The Doctor), Sheridan Smith (Lucie Miller), Katarina Olsson (Amy / Headhunter), Timothy West (Kai), Nerys Hughes (Eris), Ben Silverstone (Drew), John Schwab (Hayd), Tim Sutton (Farl)
Notes: Nerys Hughes previously appeared in the Doctor Who adventure Kinda.
Timeline: after Immortal Beloved and before No More Lies
LogBook entry & review by Philip R. Frey
Review: Phobos continues the streak of recycled plots, this time resurrecting the old “monsters that feed on fear” chestnut. Unfortunately, unlike the previous stories, Phobos is unable to find anything new or interesting to do with it.
The principal characters range from old-time hippie-types to a put-upon minority (though he’s an alien) to extreme sports enthusiasts. If you’re imagining what these characters are like, you’ve probably already divined most of their personalities. Even the Doctor and Lucie seem less clearly defined than they were. McGann and Smith are still amenable, but don’t quite ring true.
Phobos has taken a lot of flack for its obvious similarities to Scooby-Doo, complete with an “I’d have gotten away with it too” moment. Of course, the script acknowledges this, but that doesn’t let it off the hook. Just because the writer is aware of what he’s doing is no excuse for this sort of thing.
And I was sorry to see the “gay” angle, so prevalent in the new TV series, rear its head here for no particular reason than the sake of it. The characters’ situation has no bearing on the plot itself (which is no problem), but it also introduces a character element (one character in love with another) that is never resolved. It’s as if someone at Big Finish said “we’ve got to get some gayness into this or it’s not proper modern Doctor Who”, so they tacked it on.
Phobos is easily the worst of the series so far, with a cliched plot, simplistic characters, no proper tension and limp dialogue. I wouldn’t go as far as to say it’s a complete waste of time. As I said, McGann and Smith are still worth listening to and the effects are pretty well handled (although Farl, the alien, sound too much like the Threllips of Living Legend). Still, given the fact that the only nod to continuity is another appearance by the Headhunter, this one could be easily skipped and would hardly be missed.