Doctor Who: The Doctor Trap audio CD review

The comedy's trying a little too hard in this Doctor Who literary outing...

Oh dear. What a mess. By combining a weak reading with a convoluted storyline, the bods at BBC Audiobooks have produced a CD that’s far less than the sum of its parts.

Simon Messingham is a veteran Doctor Who spin-off writer, with seven titles under his belt. He no doubt feels he’s earned the right to play around with the show’s format, which is wonderfully flexible to begin with. For this tale, he takes a traditional hunters-and-hunted scenario and seeks to turn it on its head. The concept is commendable; the execution ain’t.

An interplanetary nobleman named Sebastiene calls a meeting of a highly specialized hunting league. These caddish baggers track down endangered species and extinguish them. As a Time Lord, the Doctor belongs to one of the rarest species of all. Each hunter is given his own artificially created environment to snare their prey. If they fail, Sebastiene gets to hunt them.

For some barely-explained reason, Sebastiene creates a double of the Doctor, identical down to his DNA. So when the Doctor turns the tables on the mastermind, avoiding the hunt and dominating proceedings, Sebastiene can’t tell him apart from his doppelganger.

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The villains are rendered impotent and the double seems to be present solely to give the Doctor invulnerability – Sebastiene can’t kill him in case he’s got the wrong man. So there’s no real sense of danger or excitement.

Comedy writer Messingham tries too hard to make his gags work, with groansomely out-of-place pop cultural references to music and TV shows (Britcom On The Buses gets a nod when the Doctor tells a serving droid, “I’ll get you, Butler!”). Dramatic tension is lost for the sake of a quick chuckle.

But the real problem with this CD lies with its sloppy narration. Russell Tovey (Alonso Frame in the TV tale Voyage Of The Damned) gives Sebastiene a foppish, caricatured voice that makes him sound like an unthreatening buffoon. His robot servants have monotonous voices, even though they profess to love their master. In her brief appearances, Donna comes across as a nasal nitwit and the Tenth Doctor’s trademark liveliness falls flat.

The twentysomething Tovey was presumably chosen to boost the audio book’s appeal to younger listeners, but he’s unable to make the jokes work and his delivery sounds unprepared and rushed. Combine that with the story’s confusing prologue, and you’ve got a lesser entry in the Doctor Who series.

The Doctor Trap is out now.

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2 out of 5