Flip is somewhat startled to find that, with all of time and space to roam, the Doctor is occasionally satisfied with watching a cricket match on a device that can receive signals from any place in any era. But something interferes with the signal, and then Flip disappears from the TARDIS, both very much to the Doctor’s alarm. Flip finds herself trying to save a woman from an alien creature, but the alien seems indifferent to Flip’s presence. The only thing that gets the alien’s attention is the arrival of a gun-toting, punch-throwing hero, complete with heroic music. The TARDIS lands on a planet where an action-packed new adventure series, Laser, chronicles its hero’s exploits in real time thanks to its cast being locked away in a pocket dimension with very real alien dangers… but somehow Flip has wound up being transported into this “live set”, and her attempts to simply survive are not part of the script. Also not part of the script is the arrival of aggressive aliens, a very real invasion attempt that the Doctor must try to thwart.
Cast: Colin Baker (The Doctor), Lisa Greenwood (Flip Jackson), Julian Wadham (Augustus Scullop), Yasmin Bannerman (Dr. Helen Shepherd), Hywel Morgan (Nick Kenton / Jack Laser), Martin Hutson (Matthew Howland / Lord Krarn), Tilly Gaunt (Olivia Sayle / Jancey), Kim Wall (Chimbly / Head Warmonger), Henry Devas (Junior / Warmonger)
Notes: The Time-Space Visualizer was introduced in The Chase in 1964; though it has yet to reappear on TV, the Doctor has put the Visualizer to use again in Big Finish lore (Relative Dimensions), in the novels (“The Eye Of The Giant”), and even in computer games (City Of The Daleks).
LogBook entry and TheatEar review by Earl Green
Review: Poking fun at reality TV is nothing new to Doctor Who (The Ratings War, Bad Wolf, Max Warp). But with its moustache-twirling villains (with, as Flip points out, grand plans for galactic conquest which simply make no sense) and its overly screamy female lead, the fictitious adventure show Laser isn’t just poking reality TV in the eye; it’s taking a well-judged swing at the show that Doctor Who itself used to be. And yes, it’s also having a go at a few high-octane, low-brain-power tropes of American-produced television too, complete with a dashing hero who can dispatch the bad guys with martial arts high-kicks of improbable altitude; “Jack Laser” also seems to expect the ladies to fall all over him once he has vanquished the evil-doer du jour (Flip’s utter indifference-bordering-on-annoyance toward him is one of the story’s highlights). There’s more than a slight whiff of The Running Man to the whole thing.
Flip, for her part, is anything but overly screamy. Unaware that the function of women in Jack Laser’s televised world is to scream for help, she throws a punch (!!) at the approaching alien menace, and finally puts herself quite fatally into harm’s way. This is a fairly significant development, and demands some further exploration of Flip’s background, especially with regard to her concept of self-preservation. Lisa Greenwood’s relentlessly bubbly portrayal of Flip prevents the character from simply being “Ace before there was Ace”; this is an interesting TARDIS team to follow. Flip calls the Doctor on the carpet for watching history rather than living it (a bit of an in-your-face reminder that he is doing precisely what he once criticized the Time Lords for doing), but the thought that she’s ready to punch history, even future history, in the face is quite a surprise.