Following a trail of time spillage, indicating carelessly-conducted time experiments, the TARDIS brings the Doctor to the starship Vipod Mor, whose dysfunctional crew includes an undercover cop, a schizophrenic ship’s computer, and a captain intent on creating and unleashing the most virulent disease in the universe. But the Time Lord isn’t in any shape to take on these potential dangers – he’s nearly incapacitated, trying to decipher a cryptic message deliver to him by a disembodied female voice. Soon, he and Peri are caught in the middle of numerous deadly plots, but the Doctor discovers that he can’t interfere with any of them…without derailing the entire history of the universe.
Cast: Colin Baker (The Doctor), Nicola Bryant (Peri), Jane Carr (Computer), John Glover (Shellingborne Grant), Nick Revell (Bates / Snatch), Alan Thompson (Mutant / Steward), Valentine Dyall (Captain Slarn), Ron Pember (Seedle)
LogBook entry and TheatEar review by Earl Green
Review: A story consisting of six short “episodes” created for BBC Radio’s “Pirate Radio 4” children’s show, Slipback would seem to have numerous things going for it: the then-current lead actors of the show (which was, as the time, in the midst of the BBC’s ill-advised attempt to get rid of the TV series), as well as its script editor providing the story and music and effects from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. It all sounds like authentic Who. There’s just one problem: Eric Saward’s script is incredibly derivative, and occasionally our heroes are written out of character. Saward borrows liberally from The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy (attempting repeatedly to ape Douglas Adams’ signature irony) and prior Doctor Who episodes such as Terminus. The kicker is that the story’s surprise twist at the end not only comes out of nowhere courtesy of a disembodied Time Lord voice (and not the Doctor’s, either), but it contravenes the already shaky premise of Terminus – something of which Saward should have been aware, since it had aired only two years earlier, during his tenure as the TV series’ script editor!
As for the breaches of established character, there seemed to be a directive to make sure that every mini-episode ends with someone yelling or screaming, and sometimes the elaborate dance steps needed to maneuver people into those manufactured cliffhangers are implausible at best.
Overall, it’s fairly forgettable, and perhaps best forgotten since it clashes with TV adventures that aired before and after it, and it’s been surpassed by Big Finish’s Doctor Who audio adventures. But all the same, it’s a curiosity worth at least one listen – after all, in the summer of 1985, it was the only Doctor Who to be found anywhere on the BBC.