Prison In Space

Doctor WhoThe TARDIS brings the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe to a future Earth ruled with an iron fist by catsuited women. The time travelers run afoul of these women when they try to help a man attempting to escape captivity. The women’s leader, Chairman Babs, is infuriated when the Doctor and Jamie don’t cower at the sight of Babs’ Amazonian warriors, and she orders them deported. Zoe, who demonstrates her usual keen intelligence, is seen as a potential asset and is scheduled to be subjected to mental conditioning to bring her under Babs’ control. Imprisoned, the Doctor and Jamie learn of a rebellion among the men living under the spiked boot of Chairman Babs’ tyranny, and the Doctor tries to encourage these rebels to demand equality and the right to vote, rather than fomenting an armed uprising which would merely tip the scales in the opposite direction. The Doctor is capable of toppling Chairman Babs’ empire, but can he and Jamie free Zoe from her conditioning?

Order this CDwritten by Dick Sharples
adapted for audio by Simon Guerrier
directed by Lisa Bowerman
music by Simon Robinson

Cast: Frazer Hines (Jamie / The Doctor), Wendy Padbury (Zoe), Susan Brown (Chairman Babs)

Notes: Prison In Space was under serious consideration to be part of season six, Patrick Troughton’s final season as the second Doctor, but was ultimately deemed unsuitable, replaced at the last minute by Robert Holmes’ six-part story The Space Pirates, which relied less on slapstick physical comedy (and relied less on jackbooted, catsuited female guest stars). As part of the Second Doctor Lost Stories box set released by Big Finish, it was accompanied by an audio adaptation of Terry Nation’s potential pilot for the never-made Dalek spinoff series, The Destroyers (1967).

Timeline: after The Hollows Of Time and before Point Of Entry

LogBook entry and TheatEar review by Earl Green

Review: Oh dear. Hearsay about this story’s scripts has circulated for years, revolving primarily around Jamie being in drag for some of the story. While the audio story confirms this, it’s not the only forehead-slapping moment to be found in The Prison In Space. This story would’ve seen Doctor Who join the parade of science fiction series partaking of the goofy “women’s lib gone mad” subgenre, though the depiction was laced with the trappings of kink. Audio stories don’t need shiny skintight catsuits with miniskirts, but this one has them anyway (though, to be fair to Big Finish, apparently the original 1960s Doctor Whoscripts went into loving detail about how the Amazonian warriors were dressed). The less said about Jamie releasing Zoe from hypnotic control by putting her across his knee and spanking her, the better.

But it becomes a period piece within a period piece – a 21st century rendition of a late ’60s science fiction story embracing some fairly backward ’60s values – that has to be listened to through the same filters as, say, the average Austin Powers movie. In the “making of” extras, Simon Guerrier, who adapted Dick Sharples’ 1969 scripts for audio, admits to rejigging significant portions of the script to take overtly sexist lines out of the Doctor’s mouth and having them come from the less modern Jamie instead. This may sacrifice the accuracy of the adaptation, but rings truer than having the Doctor embrace more-outmoded-than-usual attitudes for that era of the show (other writers were already guilty of having the Doctor tell Polly to make tea, among other things).

Keeping The Prison In Space afloat throughout and making it compelling listening is Frazer Hines’ uncanny, eerie dual role as both Jamie and the Doctor. In the Companion Chronicles headlined by Hines to date, that portrayal of the second Doctor – a natural evolution of Hines’ long-running convention impersonation of the late, great Patrick Troughton – has stopped me dead in my tracks on more than one occasion. Hines and Wendy Padbury also have to play other parts as well, and the result is a three-person play that Doctor Whosounds like it has a much larger cast than it does. The music and sound design are also worth a mention, carefully constructed to avoid violating what this story would’ve sounded like with effects by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop back in the day.

The effort poured into making this sound like yet another sound recording of yet another lost TV story we can no longer see is considerable – I found myself wishing that there was more actual “second Doctor” to the “Second Doctor Box Set” of the Lost Stories. At times, The Prison In Space delves into such absurdity that it’s hard not to laugh, so outmoded or not, let it not be said that this particular lost story isn’t entertaining.