The Doctor and Lucie arrive at a live taping of the hit spacecraft hot-rodding show, Max Warp… just in time to see the show’s seasoned test driver plunge to his apparent death when he loses control of a Kith ship and it slams into a nearby moon. Immediately the Doctor is convinced that the ship was sabotaged, and its pilot murdered. He and Lucie split up to try to narrow down the list of suspects – and Lucie ends up with the unenviable task of going undercover as a new host of Max Warp, and while the regular hosts think she’s just providing something for the dads to watch, she’s trying to figure out of either of them is a killer. The Doctor focuses on the intrigue between the humans and the Kith, who exist in an uneasy truce, with some on both sides ready to resume a state of war. An assassination attempt on the contentious Kith ambassador may be the last straw before shots are fired… until the Doctor realizes that something else has been happening all along.
Cast: Paul McGann (The Doctor), Sheridan Smith (Lucie Miller), Graeme Garden (Geoffrey Vantage), James Fleet (O’Reilley), Duncan James (Timbo), Nick Brimble (The Kith), Samantha Hughes (President Varlon), Katarina Olsson (Judd Gilbride)
Timeline: after Dead London and before Brave New Town
LogBook entry and TheatEar review by Earl Green
Review: An offbeat murder mystery, Max Warp‘s real appeal is its merciless skewering of Fifth Gear, Top Gear, and every other car-related reality show on British TV. This particular pop culture phenomenon may be more mainstream in
the UK, but the characters in this setting are archetypal enough that it still translates well. The real highlight of Max Warp, however, is Lucie (and Sheridan Smith) getting to do something different.
Once stripped of its setting, though, Max Warp is a fairly standard murder mystery whose chief twist is that, in the end, fewer murders have actually occurred than are being investigated. That in itself doesn’t really elevate Max Warp into something special – the story succeeds because of its character interactions and humor, with the intrigue not quite taking a back seat.
The cast is stellar, with Graeme Garden stealing the show as Max Warp’s nearly-abusive, obviously chauvinist host, though he’s able to make it believable later when his character proves to have an even darker side than that. The script is cuttingly funny, with my favorite story development being the notion that future politicians will be attended by robots specifically designed to help them spin their own announcements.