The Oseidon Adventure

Doctor Who: The Oseidon AdventureThe Master’s allies are revealed to be the Kraal Second Army (their First Army having already been defeated by the Doctor), preparing for a second invasion of Earth at the evil Time Lord’s invitation. The Doctor tells Leela to run for her life, and the Master orders Singleton to pursue her, a task relished by the man who feels that he civilized a corner of Africa. The Doctor is handed over to the Kraals, but they turn the tables on the Master, not trusting his motives. And with good reason: the Master is merely using the Kraals for his own purpose – and now the Doctor and Leela have to escape their enemies and discover what that purpose is.

Order this CDwritten by Alan Barnes
directed by Ken Bentley
music by Andy Hardwick

Cast: Tom Baker (The Doctor), Louise Jameson (Leela), Geoffrey Beevers (The Master), Michael Cochrane (Colonel Spindleton), Dan Starkey (Marshal Grimnal / Captain Clarke), John Banks (Tyngworg / Warner / UNIT R/T Operator)

Timeline: after The Talons Of Weng-Chiang; after Trail Of The White Worm and before Night Of The Stormcrow

Notes: The Doctor confirms that his most recent encounter with the Master before now was on Gallifrey (see The Deadly Assassin). The Kraals’ only televised appearance took place in 1976’s The Android Invasion, Terry Nation’s last non-Dalek script for Doctor Who, which also identified their radiation-soaked home planet as Oseidon. Guest star Dan Starkey has appeared in both Doctor Who and The Sarah Jane Adventures as various Sontarans and other diminutive aliens.

LogBook entry and TheatEar review by Earl Green

Review: With the interesting, if quirky build-up, of Trail Of The White Worm, The Oseidon Adventure is essentially the third and fourth parts of a four-part story. With both the Master and the Kraals on hand, not to mention dangerously unhinged humans like Singleton, this is going to be quite a battle, right?

The Oseidon Adventure wraps up the first season of Tom Baker’s Doctor a la Big Finish in style, but it’s obviously Tom Baker’s style. The Kraals are clearly not made out to be much of a threat, and even the Master isn’t exactly treated as the greatest threat in the Doctor’s universe. Taking the “android clone” element of The Android Invasion and running with it, Oseidon gets a bit jokey, with the Doctor running verbal circles around the Master (and his android clones). At this point, there’s almost no difference in the “serious drama quotient” between the Big Finish fourth Doctor stories and the three quintets of fourth Doctor audiobooks released by the BBC.

Even the promised showdown between Singleton and Leela turns out to be much ado about nothing; though the most interesting scenes are those between Leela and the Master, two characters who never met on TV, with Geoffrey Beevers relishing his role as usual. The only issue is that, rather than the Moriarty to the Doctor’s Holmes, the Master in this story is back to simpering and overcomplicated scheming. One detail that is gotten right is the Master’s dangerously obsessive quest to somehow renew his life cycle, this time using radiation from the Kraals’ planet to try to kick-start his regenerative ability again. That’s a constant with the post-Delgado, pre-new-series Master.

So was it worth it for Big Finish to secure the services of Tom Baker?

There have been real gems out of this exercise – Wrath Of The Iceni is the real standout of the first “season,” and the Lost Stories box set featuring Baker and Jameson is worth the price of admission. But – as I think a great many of us suspected – it was always going to be bound by Baker’s eccentricities and the fact that an organization that’s run, after all, by fans was always going to give in to those eccentricities to some degree.

I also have to call out the Big Finish team on a recurring problem – and it is a problem – on the writing end of things. I’m okay with occasional callbacks to previous episodes, but a number of releases in recent years have simptly rehashed entire plotlines from the original series, occasionally even calling attention to that fact (i.e. the eighth Doctor grand finale Lucie Miller / To The Death pointing out that the Daleks are doing exactly what they were doing in The Dalek Invasion Of Earth). The Oseidon Adventure is guilty of that too, with the Kraals employing the same tactics as before, determined to follow the same invasion plan and get it right. There was a time when Big Finish used to wow Doctor Who fans with unpredictable, sometimes shockingly original stories like The Holy Terror, Spare Parts, and Live 34, rather than basically serenading us with cover versions of songs we already know. It’s too tempting to just chalk it all up to the transition from the Gary Russell era into the Briggs/Barnes era, but recent flashes of inspired storytelling (The Cannibalists, The Wreck Of The Titan) disprove that kind of simplistic knee-jerk reaction. Big Finish is already having to fight for relevance with new television episodes of Doctor Who in production (and any explanation of reinterpreting the classics for the new series audience doesn’t wash with me, since I can’t picture that crowd going too far out of its way to buy audio stories with “the old Doctors”), but surely there’s a better way to win that fight than to constantly harken back to the good old days.