Welcome aboard the space vessel Vancouver. Its mission: to guard a vast shipment of grain from Earth to the planet Safenesthome.
Its Captain is called Ace. She seems a little unsure of herself. In fact, some might almost think she was new to the job…
Its medical officer is called simply ‘The Doctor’, and he’s perhaps not all he seems either.
When mysterious ships target the Vancouver, Ace and the Doctor are pushed to the limit. Meanwhile, there’s something nasty in the grain containers. And it’s not very happy…
I won’t lie that the I approached Earth Aid with a sense of trepidation, given that these Season 27 Lost Stories have been a bit of an uneven bag. So I’m pleased to report that Earth Aid pleasantly surprised me. There are still issues, and I am not overly enamoured with the resolution to both this story and this run of four stories, but it is certainly a lot better than the preceding two stories.
It is interesting listening to the behind-the-scenes interviews that Andrew Cartmel mentions how differently he and co-writer Ben Aaronovitch work, and I think that this is possibly why Earth Aid works so much better than the other three other stories in this series. The story feels like it knows where it’s going from the beginning, and whilst it is difficult in co-written stories to credit an individual with something, it seems logical to put credit at the door of Aaronovitch.
The story does feel like it goes at about a million miles an hour towards the beginning as it attempts to set up the Star Trek homages, with elements like the away teams and Earl Grey being the more obvious ones. Even the music feels a bit too bombastic in the first part before everything settles down in Part Two. I’m not the biggest Star Trek fan, but this seems to allude more to The Next Generation, which is probably the Trek show I’ve watched the most – it’s impossible to know how it would work on audio, but I’m slightly disappointed that no-one attempted to sit down like Commander Riker. I think that this story is a lot better plotted out and it really feels thought through, even if there are bits that I don’t love. I don’t really think that the Metatraxi really warranted a conclusion as I feel that they were inconsequential enough in their previous appearances, and would have welcomed a different foe ultimately having been revealed to be behind this trap for the Doctor.
I think that the supporting cast are pretty solid here, especially Ingrid Oliver as the aggressive Baraki, who I initially didn’t recognise. Obviously, the character of Osgood came after this was released, but I think they feel that they feel considerably more distinct than I expected. Patterson Joseph is pretty solid as the villainous Victor and I liked the rest of the crew of the Vancouver, even if I did think that the script did not do them any favours by making them take so long to realise how out of her depth Ace was.
This is a bit of a lighter Seventh Doctor than we are used to, and it is nice to hear that the Doctor didn’t know that the planet they end up on is the home planet of the Grubs. This is a good use of Sylvester McCoy and it’s nice to hear that this scheming incarnation of the Doctor isn’t always three moves ahead, without it being the Season 24 version. It’s an interesting approach to have Ace put into a position where she is out of her depth, considering that the rest of the stories don’t really do anything interesting with her character in this run that justify her staying with the Doctor. This is a new dynamic for Ace and it would have been intriguing to see how this trio developed further. Equally, I wanted to see (or hear) more Raine after this story, as she comes back with more experience of computers, almost making her more useful to the Doctor in their future endeavours. Both Sophie Aldred and Beth Chalmers are good here and I think they have been pretty solid throughout this quartet of audios, even if the quality of the stories was a bit questionnable. It’s a shame we’re unlikely to have more Seventh Doctor and Raine stories, as I understand from some cursory googling that Big Finish are no longer allowed to use the character.
Verdict: Earth Aid brings this Lost Series 27 to a mildly satisfying conclusion. It is definitely better than the earlier three stories, benefitting from a tighter plotted story and good performances from the guest cast, but the return of the Metatraxi and their conclusion feels ultimately underwhelming. 8/10
Cast: Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Sophie Aldred (Ace), Beth Chalmers (Raine Creevy), Paterson Joseph (Victor Espinosa), Nadine Marshall (Shepstay), Basher Savage (Yakinov), Ingrid Oliver (Lt Baraki), John Banks (The Metatraxi) & Alex Mallinson (Grub).
Writers: Andrew Cartmel and Ben Aaronovitch
Director: Ken Bentley
Behind the Scenes
- Raine only appears in one audio story after this one, UNIT: Dominion – I’m not entirely sure why this might be. If anybody has any answers, please let me know!
- Paterson Joseph appeared as Rodrick in Bad Wolf and The Parting of the Ways. After David Tennant announced that he was leaving the role of the Doctor, he was heavily rumoured to be the most probable Eleventh Doctor.
- Nadine Marshall has also played Katrice in You Are the Doctor and Kordel in The Grand Betelgeuse Hotel.
- Ingrid Oliver went on to play Petronella Osgood in The Day of the Doctor, Death in Heaven, The Zygon Invasion and The Zygon Inversion, as well as reprising the role for the Big Finish audio anthology based around the new series UNIT team. She also played Helen in Project: Destiny.
- John Banks has appeared in a number of Big Finish audio plays, including Paper Cuts, Kiss of Death and Black and White.
- Alex Mallinson has appeared in a number of Big Finish stories, including A Thousand Tiny Wings, The Four Doctors and Animal.
At last, Doctor, we have you here.
Yes, how nice to see you again. What a pleasant surprise!
It will not prove to be pleasant.
Actually, it wasn’t much of a surprise either.The Metatraxi and the Seventh Doctor
Earth Aid is available to purchase from the Big Finish website.
Next Seventh Doctor review: I’ll be delving into the Big Finish Main Range for Sylvester McCoy, with reviews of both The Sirens of Time and The Fearmonger in October.