Full Fathom Five

Doctor Who Unbound: Full Fathom Five2039 A.D.: After encountering rumors of illegal genetic experiments being conducted by the U.S. military under the cover of the Deep-sea Energy Exploration Project, the Doctor drops in with the TARDIS and confirms his worst fears. The ruthless General Flint has been using Professor Vollmer’s ecologically friendly energy experiments, harnessing power from undersea geothermal vents, as a cover for experiments that even the Army has now disavowed. Faced with the impending end of his secret project, Flint has Vollmer injected with a cocktail of accelerated DNA cultivated from sea creatures, his last chance to prove the value of his project. To prevent Vollmer’s mutation into an amphibious life form, the Doctor kills him, but not before Vollmer makes the Doctor promise to look after his daughter. General Flint confiscates the Doctor’s TARDIS key, forcing the Time Lord to abandon the seabase in an escape submarine before Flint’s plan comes to a deadly end: radioactive dirty bombs detonate around the DEEP base, ensuring that even the most curious and determined explorer can’t get near it.

2066 A.D.: The Doctor insists on leaving his companion Ruth on dry land as he plunges into the ocean to examine the wreckage of DEEP. Ruth’s father, Professor Vollmer, worked there 27 years ago when disaster struck and he was lost and presumed dead. She has never learned what exactly happened to him or who was responsible. And despite the Doctor’s efforts to leave her behind, she stows away aboard a sub he has hired to go to DEEP. The Doctor, having been stranded on 21st century Earth for a quarter century, is desperate to retrieve his TARDIS and continue his travels – and he’ll stop at nothing to get it back. But is he willing to sacrifice Ruth’s life to achieve this goal… or is he willing to take it in cold blood?

Order this CDwritten by David Bishop
directed by Jason Haigh-Ellery
music by Andy Hardwick & Gareth Jenkins

Cast: David Collings (The Doctor), Ed Bishop (General Flint), Siri O’Neal (Ruth), Matthew Benson (Vollmer), Jeremy James (Hoskins), Jack Galagher (Lee)

Timeline: uncertain. According to Ruth, “The Doctor says he has thirteen lives, but he’s used most of those already.”

LogBook entry and TheatEar review by Earl Green

Review: Who is the Doctor? Why do you follow his adventures or admire him?

That’s really the overriding question of this most controversial of the Doctor Who Unbound plays. To put it lightly, the fans are up in arms about this one. So much of Doctor Who fiction – written, televised, or audio – has concentrated on hinting at the Doctor’s “dark side” since the late 1980s, but here we have an ends-justify-the-means Doctor, one who doesn’t hesitate to shoot someone at point-blank range with a perfectly modern handgun – no lasers, and his target is a human being, someone who is on the verge of recanting his actions. Surely the Doctor, our Doctor in what most fans accept as the show’s official timeline, wouldn’t do such a thing?

Of course not. He’d wipe out the entire Dalek and Cyberman races from a safe distance, in a plan so premeditated that it may date back to previous incarnations (in the Daleks’ case, possibly dating back to the Doctor’s first incarnation). Or he’d sentence the entire Vervoid race to extinction. Ooh, yes, much better than gunning down one man at close range, eh? Surely he’s above that.

But surely the Doctor wiped out those aforementioned enemies because they were doing wicked things? The Vervoids weren’t. They were just following their instincts. Full Fathom Five‘s Lee was engaged in decidedly wicked activities, and he was beginning to show signs of regret, either for what he did or at least for getting caught. As for Vollmer, he had already asked the Doctor to kill him, begging for a mercy killing and fully aware of what he was becoming. And surely General Flint, who the Doctor leaves to his fate, has earned what’s coming to him. Are you sure that the Doctor’s actions here are completely out of character?

Writer David Bishop has flatly refused to clarify anything about this alternate Doctor’s history, saying that the listeners must draw their own conclusions and interpretations. It really is a brave ethical litmus test for the audience, and it’s certainly sparked more debate than any of the other Unbound stories to date. Perhaps it makes burger meat out of some Doctor Who fans’ most sacred cows, but is it so far out of line with the established history of the show or the character? In any case, the entire cast is superb, the music is perfect, and the sound design sets the watery stage quite well.

We won’t even get into the story’s shock ending, or whether or not anyone is justified in their actions by the time the closing credit music brings the proceedings to an end.

Who is the Doctor, and why do you follow his adventures or admire him? Listen to Full Fathom Five once. Then listen to it again. Did your answers change? Are you shifting a little uncomfortably in your seat? Then Full Fathom Five has done its job.