The Macros

Oh, you think you’re unique. But I’ve met your kind on so many worlds, dictators who claw their way to the top, oppressing and murdering and it’s never enough, is it?

The Sixth Doctor

Synopsis

The TARDIS materialises on the USS Eldridge, after the Philadelphia Experiment has gone disastrously wrong. Most of the crew are dead, the ship is disintegrating, and the Doctor soon realizes that the problem comes from another dimension…

As they attempt to find a way to get the ship home, the Doctor and Peri visit the distant planet Capron and meet its tyrannical ruler Osloo. But the search for a possible solution only creates increasingly dire problems. Osloo’s horizons have been widened – and Space and Time are hers for the taking…

Review

This story brings to a close the first run of Sixth Doctor Lost Stories from Big Finish – there is another short run of three stories which fit into this Lost Season, and of course, the recent Russell T Davies penned The Mind of the Hodiac, featuring Colin Baker and Bonnie Langford. This does feel at times like a season finale, with the Doctor and Peri returning to Baltimore to let her family know that she is okay following her disappearance in Lanzarote, seen in Planet of Fire.

This story feels like it almost has the perfect premise for a Doctor Who story, set on the USS Eldridge, the ship at the centre of the Philadelphia Experiment, an urban myth about American attempts to make a ship invisible. It is almost ripe for a Doctor Who writer to give an explanation as to what happened to the ship and the crew, however, unfortunately, this isn’t that well written. I do love the scenes of the Doctor and Peri investigating the ship when they first arrive, encountering repeated conversations amongst the crew around the beginning of the experiment, which feels very tense and atmospheric, but it just loses this along the way. It touches on interesting ideas later on when it talks about the impact of putting Professor Tessler and Bosun back in 2010 on their families, but it abandons this for far more conventional storytelling of the Doctor and Peri going back in time to try and prevent the experiment being conducted in the first place. In fact, I’d say that everything after the cliffhanger, which felt quite visceral and boosted by Big Finish’s sound design — the noises of Peri aging is one of the best things in this story — is incredibly weak and feels like treading water.

A lot of the story suffers from how detached the scenes in the macroverse feel from the scenes on the USS Enterprise, and how poorly the central villain is written. Presidenta Ooslo feels like one of those villains who is supposed to be a scheming villain but comes across as a sadistic bully, combined with the feeling of a fairytale’s evil stepmother. The fact that the Doctor and the main villain do not come face to face until relatively late in the narrative does not help this feeling of detachment and I have to admit, led to me struggling with this story. It’s through no fault of Linda Marlowe or any of the rest of the guest cast that they cannot make the characters feel real as the script is just bland.

Whilst Colin Baker puts in another good performance, this isn’t the definitive Sixth Doctor story. This almost feels like the kind of story that any Doctor could slot into this narrative with little impact to the overall impression of this story, as he is largely spouting exposition. On the other hand, I think this story is really important for the character of Peri. Having travelled with the Doctor for quite a while now, this Doctor and companion have a really nice dynamic and I particularly like it when she tells him that she’s found a safer way up the USS Eldridge which will not cost him regenerations. It is perhaps more of a modern series element that sees Peri want to return home to her family at the start of the story, but it’s something that doesn’t feel out of place for an Eighties companion, possibly because of Tegan’s desire to return to Heathrow Airport. Throughout these Lost Stories, Big Finish have taken the opportunity to make the relationship between the Sixth Doctor and Peri less hostile and this Peri certainly seems like the one that we see at the start of the Trial of a Time Lord arc which, of course, is the real Season 23. Nicola Bryant is great as the American companion, and she is probably one of the few shining lights in this story.

Verdict: Whilst the central premise seems a good one, this isn’t a Lost Story that I’m in a vast rush to revisit. It does have some good development for Peri, though. 5/10

Cast: Colin Baker (The Doctor), Nicola Bryant (Peri Brown), Linda Marlowe (Presidenta Osloo/Anne Tessler), Jack Galagher (Commander Ezz/Steward), Rachael Elizabeth (Lady Yka), Vincent Pirillo (Professor Brian Tessler), Stewart Alexander (Bosun/Guard), Paul David-Gough (Mers/Admiral Greg Calloway/1st Rigger) & Matt Addis (Chancellor Bundth/2nd Rigger/Captain/Guard/Tannoy).

Writer: Ingrid Pitt and Tony Rudlin

Director: John Ainsworth

Parts: 2

Behind the Scenes

  • This was an unproduced story for Doctor Who written by actress Ingrid Pitt and her husband Tony Rudlin, who were inspired by The Philadelphia Experiment by Charles Berlitz, which is about the United States trying to make the USS Eldridge invisible to radar in World War Two.
  • Pitt had appeared as Galleia in The Time Monster and Solow in Warriors of the Deep.

Cast Notes

  • Linda Marlowe has also played May Carlisle in Casualties of War, Commander Claire Spencer in The Word Lord and Gusta Pardo in The Tyrants of Logic.
  • Jack Galagher has also appeared in a number of Big Finish audio plays, including The Fearmonger, Jubilee and Full Fathom Five.
  • Rachael Elizabeth also played Cindy in the Bernice Summerfield audio story Absence.
  • Vincent Pirillo also appeared as Daniel Woods in The Reaping.
  • Stewart Alexander appeared as a worker in Daleks in Manhattan, as well as playing a Sergeant in Renaissance of the Daleks and Aragon in The Plague Herds of Excelis, a Bernice Summerfield audio play.
  • Paul David-Gough played Will Alloran and Lomas Alloran in Nocturne.
  • Matt Addis has appeared in a number of Big Finish audio plays, including The Wreck of the Titan, Robophobia and Point of Entry.

Best Quote

Do things like this often happen when you’re travelling with the Doctor?

You don’t even know the half of it. I was even transformed into a bird once.

Be serious!

Really! I’ve been on Androgrum’s lunch menus, I’ve escaped from Ice Warriors and Tractators and been in more prison cells than I can count.

Lady Yka and Peri Brown

Previous Sixth Doctor review: The Song of Megaptera

Further reading:

Further reading about the Philadelphia Experiment: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philadelphia_Experiment

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