The Doctor and Charley arrive in Manhattan just before Halloween, 1938. One of the first things Charley encounters upon her first visit to New York City is the body of a recently murdered private detective. When a woman arrives at the gumshoe’s office to hire him, the Doctor impersonates him and agrees to take on the case of her missing uncle (to Charley’s alarm). But things aren’t as they seem – Charley is kidnapped by mobsters, and even the Doctor’s new client isn’t who she seems. As Orson Welles and the Mercury Theater Players prepare to broadcast their infamous panic-inducing radio adaptation of “The War Of The Worlds”, a very real alien invasion is taking place – and the Doctor hopes to use one to fight the other.
Cast: Paul McGann (The Doctor), India Fisher (Charley), Ian Hallard (Mouse), Mark Benton (Ellis), Jonathan Rigby (John Houseman), David Benson (Orson Welles), Paul Putner (Bix Biro), Simon Pegg (Don Chaney), Jessica Stevenson (Glory Bee), John Arthur (Cosmo Devine)
LogBook entry and TheatEar review by Earl Green
Review: I was a little wary at first of the concept of plunging the Doctor into a 30s style caper, but I have to admit now that I’m surprised at how well it all turned out. Normally I dread hearing anything in which American accents are going to be impersonated (see my ruminations on last year’s Minuet In Hell and “grandpoppy”), but this time they pulled it off fairly well. (For the record, I equally dread hearing Americans impersonate Britons, just to be fair.)
Recorded in January 2001 (and written in 2000), Invaders From Mars now has the unfortunate distinction of featuring aliens plotting to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge and lay waste to the rest of the city. As easy as it is to shrink back from this sort of thing these days, I didn’t have that much of a problem with the story’s setting and plot. Part of what took my mind off of any such retroactive ramifications was the outstanding cast and some excellent sound design (including some theremin-heavy vintage radio-style music courtesy of Alistair Lock, still the best composer in the Big Finish stable). Mark Gatiss’ script is fast, funny, and yet still tightly-plotted. It’s so free of any continuity that it would’ve suited most any Doctor/companion combination, but Paul McGann and India Fisher were clearly having a blast with it.
Since I haven’t gotten and listened to the 2002 audios until very recently, I’ve been avoiding any discussion, reviews, or spoilers regarding the new “season” of McGann audios, so I was a little surprised to hear that an element of the plot had to do with some of the good guys (and at least one of the bad guys) being homosexual. It really doesn’t make a big splash in the story itself – though I’ll admit that the “kidnapped lover” subplot minus the stereotypical damsel in distress was refreshing – but I was surprised to hear it, and even more surprised to hear a certain epithet starting with “F” uttered by one of the characters later in the story. Then again, people do say that in real life. Just like people really do make plans to do terrible things to New York City in real life. Either way, you can’t let them get the best of you – or bring out the worst.
Invaders From Mars is a gleeful listen, and a very promising kickoff for a new line of McGann audios. I feel better about the eighth Doctor’s return to audio already.