Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor Adventures # 1.1
Written by: Matt Fitton
Directed by: Nicholas Briggs
Performed by: David Tennant, Catherine Tate, Niky Wardley & Rachael Stirling
Duration: 60 mins approx
Chronology Placement: Set during “Season Four”
Synopsis: When the Doctor and Donna visit London’s Technology Museum for a glimpse into the future, things don’t go to plan. The most brilliant IT brain in the country can’t use her computer. More worrying, the exhibits are attacking the visitors, while outside, people seem to be losing control of the technology that runs their lives. Is it all down to simple human stupidity, or is something more sinister going on? Beneath the streets, the Koggnossenti are waiting. For all of London to fall prey to technophobia…
Big Finish has been producing audio based on the post-2005 series of Doctor Who since November 2015, with its UNIT: Extinction release, but the news that they had secured David Tennant and Catherine Tate to reprise their roles as Tenth Doctor and Donna Noble sent the Whovian corner of the internet into meltdown. Unsurprisingly, The Tenth Doctor Adventures proved an immensely popular release for Big Finish and upon the launch of “Technophobia” in May 2016, Big Finish’s website crashed with the sheer amount of internet traffic on their site. So when I finally got my hands on this series, I was very excited to experience the relationship between Donna and the Doctor in an audio format…and boy, I was not disappointed!
With its contemporary London setting and its focus on technology, Matt Fitton’s script is reminiscent of the Eleventh Doctor adventure “The Bells of Saint John”, although it quickly veers off onto its own track thanks to a sly bit of misdirection about whom the true villain of the piece is. Setting the adventure in 2011 – two years into Donna’s future, but in our past – allows Fitton to poke fun at ‘future developments’ such as smartphones, celebrity perfumes and 3D movies. Mocking pop-culture references, albeit dated ones like Justin Bieber, is a Doctor Who tradition and it’s great to see it realised in this adventure.
David Tennant and Catherine Tate both step into their roles with ease, so much so that you’d never think that it has been eight years since they’d travelled through time together. The bickering friendship between the two endures on the audio format and the chemistry between the two leads fuels the fast-paced action of this adventure. It feels very much like an episode from the Season Four era, perfectly-paced to fit inside of an hour and is dripping with Russell T Davies’ DNA, but in a non-gross way! The inclusion of the modern theme tune had me squealing with delight, and the slight incidental music drags me back to that brilliant moment in “Partners in Crime” where the two TARDIS travellers reunited through the magic of mime.
With such a short duration, there is little time for the supporting characters to be developed but Fitton does his best to create memorable sidekicks in “Bex with an X” and the stern businesswoman and inventor, Jill Meadows. The fact remains that people are listening to hear David Tennant and Catherine Tate return to their roles, and they do not disappoint. Tennant’s voice is so evocative that you can almost picture the Tenth Doctor’s mannerisms and facial expressions when he says certain phrases. Tate plays a softer version of Donna Noble, suggesting that the story takes place later in the Season Four, as opposed to the more brash and loudmouth version of the character.
I loved the misdirection at the heart of this tale, and the way that Fitton gradually reveals the true nature of the threat facing mankind. It’s a great twist on audience expectation and allows the script to dismantle the Doctor’s greatest weapon – his intelligence. I’d love to have seen more emphasis on the Doctor losing his intellect and scientific know-how, and it’s an idea that would be well explored on the show. The fact he can out-talk and out-think his enemy has been played out again and again in the series, so it would be fascinating to see him stripped of that ability, as we glimpse here.
Simple, well-structured and full of sparkling dialogue – this adventure was a remarkably strong debut for The Tenth Doctor Adventures, reminding listeners exactly why they love the pairing of the Tenth Doctor and Donna so much. Both Tennant and Tate effortlessly transfer their acting abilities from the screen to the earphone, losing none of their charm or skill as storytellers. Opening the range with a contemporary Earth-based adventure not only captures that spirit of the RTD era, but also serves as a palate cleanser for the more exotic adventures left in the range. I’m even more excited to experience the rest of the volume. All that’s left to say is: Allons-y!