Coming back to the writing fold this month is Andrew Smith, who last wrote for Doctor Who in the 1980â€™s with his opening story for the E-Space trilogy, Full Circle. The story was considered fresh and exciting by many fans and sees the beginning of a somewhat epic journey for the Doctor and Romana as the encounter swamp creatures and a young Alzarian called Adric.
Now, thirty years later, Smith returns to his writing duties all grown up and ready to pit the Doctor against more trials and tribulations. And what we get as a result is a very polished and sophisticated Companion Chronicle titled The Invasion of E-Space.
The first thing youâ€™ll notice when listening to this audio is that Smithâ€™s writing has improved tenfold over the years. Where Full Circle contained an undercurrent aimed at youth and uncertainty, The Invasion of E-Space holds a certain maturity within its words, one that suggests not only three decades worth of experience but maybe even certain weariness to life and its grim trappings.
The story is a simple premise, set during the Doctors entrapment in E-Space he and Romana encounter a horde of invaders from N-Space that are capable of breaking down the walls between universes and travel back and forth. Aha, you say, an escape route for the TARDIS team to get through but as always in these scenarios, nothing is that simple.
Lalla Wardâ€™s reading of this story is something of a particular treat here, as her authoritive tones lend well when she is facing off against the power hungry villains of the piece. Whatâ€™s amusing to notice is that the reading she gives of the Fourth Doctor is less of his character from the show and seems to be more in the style of Tom Baker himself, arguably something he did during his tenure yes but thereâ€™s something amusing about hearing his ex-wife listing some of his less desirable characteristics that raises a smile.
Adric gets less to do in the story and is very much a background character, reduced to a few questions and getting injured towards the climax to provide a dramatic scene or two for Romana to deal with. Ward embraces the character of Adric with a certain immaturity and his tones come across (most of the play) as quite whiney. Is this her interpretation of the character or the actor Matthew Waterhouse? You make your own mind up on that one.
Sound design and direction are excellent with The Invasion of E-Space, when the invading fleet break through into E-Space, itâ€™s an audio feast-one to sit back and really enjoy as the action rolls out. In fact one might go as far as to say that this makes up for the slightly cheaper effects that were given to us in the 1980â€™s and really does immerse you into another world or in this case, Universe.
The benefit of the Companion Chronicles is that they can revisit times and eras of Doctor Who that need a bit a 21st century makeover and deliver on the goods. In the case of the E-Space trilogy, this play has done just that. Building on a strong premise, Andrew Smith has shown that he still has plenty more to offer the Universe of Doctor Who. Now letâ€™s not have such a long gap again between stories, eh Andrew?
The Invasion of E-Space starring Lalla Ward is available to buy on MP3 or CD from www.bigfinish.com now!