Intrigued by the robot guardians employed by the Metatraxi and built at Margrave University, the Doctor and friends follow the trail to that university in the year 2001. Brigadier Winifred Bambera and UNIT are already on the scene, conducting an investigation that they’re more than happy to recruit the Doctor’s companions for. Undercover as new students, Ace and Raine both meet Scobie, a brilliant science student whose fight-the-power mentality stretches from an elaborate scheme to free the school’s lab animals, to contacting an alien race and inviting them to Earth to share their enlightened mentality with humanity. One thing Scobie hasn’t counted on is that these beings see Earth as a ready-made feeding ground full of docile creatures. Fortunately, UNIT and its former scientific advisor are on hand to alter that perception.
Cast: Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Sophie Aldred (Ace), Beth Chalmers (Raine Creevy), Angela Bruce (Brigadier Winifred Bambera), John Banks (Henrick / Metatraxi), Anthony Lewis (Scobie), Dannielle Brent (Willa), Alex Mallinson (Percy), Amy Pemberton (Juno)
LogBook entry and TheatEar review by Earl Green
Review: The third story in the “season 27” Lost Stories quartet, Animal once again rings absolutely true as a story we would’ve gotten in 1990. Ace and Raine have settled in as the new TARDIS team, Sylvester McCoy is in fine form as the seventh Doctor, and Brigadier Bambera is back. How much more authenticity do you need?
Once again, Bambera is played by Angela Bruce, who has three flash-in-the-pan claims to genre fame: her original appearance as Bambera in 1989’s Battlefield (which seemed to strongly imply that she would become an ally to the Doctor in the mold of her UNIT predecessor), her appearance as the female doppelganger of Lister in the Red Dwarf episode Parallel Universe, and her game attempt to replace Josette Simon as Dayna in the BBC’s pair of Blake’s 7 radio revivals in the 1990s. In the extra interviews segment, she’s clearly happy to reprise the role of Bambera and doesn’t resent her avid sci-fi-fan following a bit. On the strength of her performance here, I strongly recommend keeping Brigadier Bambera around for future audio stories. It’s not intended as a slight to the late, great Nicholas Courtney, but the TV series’ production team was already putting Bambera forward as Lethbridge-Stewart’s replacement – it’s about time Big Finish followed suit.
The plant-based alien life forms in Animal are interesting in concept, but their execution screams “time filler”: they identify themselves in the third person before making any declaration, and yet they know enough of the nuances of English to twist a harmless statement (“you will come to no harm”) into a threat (“you will come to know harm”) late in the story. It’s a cute gag, but the second born would like to point out to the writers that the gag is at odds with how the second born speaks the rest of the time. The second born would like to further add that surely such a pun would indicate enough of a working knowledge of English grammar that the second born could lay off the “second born” business at the beginning of every sentence. I do like Ace’s response to the wordplay though: “Oh, that’s just wrong!”
The only other minor quibble is the subject of a rather significant spoiler; stop reading and turn back now if you don’t want to have the end of part four spoiled for you.
The story closes with the abrupt departure of Raine Creevy, who only just joined the TARDIS crew in Crime Of The Century. Animal takes place in 2001, and so it’s only natural that Raine looks up her father in a search engine and discovers that he doesn’t live to see the 21st century. Rattled to the core, she decides to stay in 2001 to mourn, but wouldn’t it be a more natural reaction to want to return to the past to spend what time you can with a parent whose time is limited? Of course, there are two reasons to ditch Raine here that have nothing to do with their story plausibility: she’ll be back in 2012 for a short miniseries of seventh Doctor stories alongside the fascist-leaning time traveler Klein (ugh), and of course Earth Aid, the last of the season 27 Lost Stories, was always a candidate to be Ace’s departure story and its outline never featured Raine.
Animal is fun in that all indicators seem to point toward a sequel to Seeds Of Doom, and yet it isn’t. Clearly the Krynoids aren’t the only salad on the plate.