When Jackie Tyler takes an away day to visit her old friend Marge in Norwich, she finds her holiday immediately interrupted in the worst way possible – an alien invasion! The infamous Zaross have come to take over the Earth.
Or have they? After Jackie calls in the Doctor and Rose to deal with the menace, it soon becomes clear that this is a very unusual invasion indeed.
The Doctor is about to uncover one of the most heinous crimes in the history of the universe. And if he can’t stop it, an awful lot of people are going to die.
Infamy of the Zaross feels like it could have been lifted straight out of David Tennant’s first series, and if it had been broadcast, would have been one of the best stories of an indifferent first season. John Dorney’s story manages to capture the Russell T Davies era effectively and has good central performances from Tennant, Piper and Coduri.
On paper, I’m sure that taking arguably the most successful and loved Doctor and companion pairing of the revived series and giving them a good story may seem a challenge, but John Dorney’s script makes it seem like a breeze. Dorney is one of an array of writers in the Big Finish stable who manages to capture each individual Doctor’s voice and also a writer I struggle to find fault with any of the stories that he has written. It certainly feels like an early revival era Earth invasion story from the beginning, with the Zaross feeling like another race aiming to subjugate the Earth, although there are strange moments like the invading aliens disappearing completely only to reappear and deliver the exact same spiel a few moments later. Of course, this leads to the twist being revealed that this invasion is all for the television show Take Me To Your Leader. Dorney takes similar opportunity to Russell T Davies’ in Bad Wolf to make fun of television, with the meta open, in which Ikron effectively cues the Doctor Who titles, to jokes about how the reality format is getting stale and how Jess equates success to fame through reality programmes. Dorney writes some great dialogue here, with some more rocky moments (“Did you order an alien nemesis with rice? Because I’m all out of rice.”) The staleness of the reality format is combated within the story by the Herazi recasting their alien invaders every couple of seasons, almost similar to having different contestants or judges for different series of shows like . Nicholas Briggs’ direction is solid as usual and particularly effective in creating the crowd scenes and the sense of panic in Norwich
The twist around the Zaross works really well, as it makes the Herazi seem really nefarious as they take other alien races and create these new variations to form alien ‘armies’ to invade other planets. The story hints at this reveal early on when the Doctor is unable to find any mention of the Zaross in the TARDIS databanks and there are mentions of the aliens looking as though they are wearing make up. Ultimately, it is revealed that the Herazi have made a peaceful race, the Forzell, into the warlike Zaross and it is ultimately satisfying when they get their revenge on their bosses. The show is referred to as “scripted reality” which means that people have really died to create this ‘entertainment’ for consumption, and the Herazi leader Ikron shows no sign of remorse about this, only concerned for the show’s falling ratings and what they can do to keep the show fresh. Guy Henry is suitably blasé about this and quite a good foe to go up against Tennant’s Doctor, with his silky voice and charm, even convincing Jess that he could make her famous, temporarily
The main trio of David Tennant, Billie Piper and Camille Coduri slot back into their roles easily, with only Piper having some more difficulty recapturing Rose, on occasion sounding slightly too posh to be Jackie’s daughter, but perhaps this is understandable considering that this is the first time she’s played the part of Rose since 2010, whilst the other two had reprised their roles for Big Finish more recently. Tennant returns to the part with aplomb, channelling the energy and enthusiasm that is synonymous with this incarnation. He even manages to give a very Colin Baker-esque impression of outrage towards Ikron when he learns the truth behind the Zaross and the reality show Take Me To Your Leader. As mentioned, Billie Piper does manage to recapture the essence of Rose, despite some small lapses, and the story does put her into the standard position of boosting someone who feels the weight of parental disappointment in Jess, but also gets some resourceful moments, like dealing with the show’s production team later on and standing up to the unpleasant Marge later on. This story also gives Jackie a chance to experience the life that her daughter and the Doctor live day in day out and Coduri captures the moment that Jackie gets to see the Earth from the Herazi spaceship really well. She does get more to do than she would in a television story which is nice. As someone who hasn’t been terribly keen on Jackie in the past, seeing her partnered with almost a nastier reflection of herself in Marge – someone who has money and a successful partner – made me appreciate the character more, so I suppose Rosie Cavaliero deserves praise for embodying such a pantomime-style villain who is almost immediately unlikeable.
Verdict: Infamy of the Zaross slots nicely into Series 2, effectively evoking nostalgia and is a great story in its own right. 9/10
Cast: David Tennant (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler), Rosie Cavaliero (Marge Ellmore), Beth Lilly (Jess Ellmore), Guy Henry (Ikron), George Watkins (Tanan/Steve) & George Asprey (Leader).
Writer: John Dorney
Director: Nicholas Briggs
Behind the Scenes
- The first Big Finish story to feature Billie Piper.
- Rosie Cavaliero previously played Cassie Schofield, mother of Seventh Doctor companion Hex, in Project: Twilight and Project: Lazarus.
- George Watkins also played Fifth Doctor companion Marc starting in Tartarus, also appearing as different characters in Time in Office and Purgatory 12. Watkins is the nephew of Peter Davison.
- George Asprey previously played The Ravenous in the Eighth Doctor audios of the same name and appeared in the Third Doctor story The Hidden Realm.
You’re committing one of the most monstrous crimes I’ve ever had the misfortune to encounter and you think I’d be willing to forget that for something as worthless and transitory as celebrity?!?The Tenth Doctor
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