Doctor Who – “The Best-Laid Plans”

Doctor Who: Short Trips
Paul Spragg Memorial Short Trips Opportunity 2019
Written by: Ben Tedds
Directed by: Nicholas Briggs
Performed by: Jacob Dudman
Duration: 40 mins approx
ISBN: 978-1-83868-092-3
Chronology Placement: Set after “The Return of Doctor Mysterio”

Synopsis: Dracksil Forg sells ideas. For the right price, he’s got a solution to every possible problem. His reputation is impeccable, and whilst his ideas aren’t flawless, he has a 100% money-back guarantee. Dracksil has started selling to a new type of customer. They are dictators, warlords; species having trouble conquering galaxies or controlling populations. However, for these clients, Dracksil’s ideas keep falling apart. There’s something that unites these failing ideas. A name, screamed and whispered angrily among the rants of Dracksil’s new clientele: the Doctor, the Doctor, the Doctor…

As a memorial and tribute to their colleague Paul Spragg, Big Finish holds a competition each year for new writers to pitch ideas for a Short Trips story – roughly half hour in length and read by a single actor. Winning scripts are developed with Big Finish and eventually produced as a free audio release to commemorate Paul Spragg’s life. “The Best-Laid Plans”, released in December 2019, is the fourth audiobook in this series and features the Twelfth Doctor travelling alone after losing Clara in “Hell Bent”.

As with most of the Short Trips adventures I’ve listened to, “The Best-Laid Plans” tells the story from the point-of-view of a new character and shows how the Doctor intersects on their life at a crucial stage, dealing with the ramifications of an encounter with the Doctor from a different perspective. In this adventure, writer Ben Tedds introduces us to Dracksil Forg – an “ideas man” who supplies detailed plans to all manner of customer ranging from novelists to potential overlords. Forg is a fascinating character, initially presented as a bureaucratic genius who cares more about the success of his ideas than the potential consequences of them. It is interesting that Tedds pits this character up against the Twelfth Doctor – an incarnation that also often failed to see the impact of his actions – even down to requiring prompt cards to deal with people’s emotions.

Jacob Dudman narrates this adventure, and frankly he does a tremendous job doing so! I’d seen his impersonation of the Eleventh Doctor on the viral YouTube video – “The Great Curator” – but his interpretation of the Twelfth Doctor was equally as fantastic. Not only did he get the accent spot-on, but he also nailed the inflections and performance that Peter Capaldi brought to the role. Dudman also does a fantastic job voicing the other characters in the story, giving the audiobook some variety and the feel of a multi-cast drama.

Tedds’ script manages to evoke a fairy-tale atmosphere at times, and feels reminiscent of Neil Gaiman’s work on the series. There’s a quirkiness to the set-up of Dracksil Forg and the litigious nature of his home planet that feels very Gaiman-esque. Tedds gets right to the heart(s) of the Twelfth Doctor as he offers two choices to Forg at the end of the tale, demonstrating his sense of fair play and his desire to give people a chance, even if they do not always take him up on the office.

Overall, this is an enchanting Short Trips adventure that pits the Doctor up against someone who has almost as many plans as he does. Brilliantly performed by Dudman, and wonderfully written by Tedds, you don’t need an “ideas man” to tell you that you should really download this gem of an audiobook – especially since it’s completely free!

Score – ★★★★

Doctor Who: The Best-Laid Plans is available direct from Big Finish as a free digital download.

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