Jo Grant, that plucky friend of the Third Doctor, finds herself trapped in “The Scorchies Show”. From the outside, it’s a harmless children’s television show that entertains many but on the inside the Scorchies are aliens disguised as puppets and they don’t have good plans for Earth.
To say that The Scorchies is one of the most original Doctor Who plays ever produced by Big Finish is certainly no understatement, it’s one of the most unique adventures that you could imagine. It has the usual as well, there’s the typical alien menace that the Third Doctor and the Brigadier are working hard to beat but the difference the writer James Goss offers here is the type of alien menace. Using puppets as the enemy, puppets that enjoy a good sing song to move the plot along, is a brave move from any writer but somehow, this makes it work. Maybe it’s the catchy rhythm of the songs, maybe its Katy Manning singing them in a barking mad voice or perhaps it’s because the story is very easy to visualise. Images of Sesame Street or BBC children’s show Playdays spring to mind when listening to The Scorchies.
It also helps that Melvyn Hayes brings a multitude of different characters to life with his voice as the various Scorchies of the story, and they’re childlike manner hiding more psychotic tendencies lends a menace to the tale that keeps the listener on edge. Fans of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer spin off Angel may also get a kick from this story as it harbours similarities to the season 5 story Smile Time in which killer puppets on a children’s television show are trying to steal viewers life forces, both this and The Scorchies have not only a sense of fun about them but also show how some television shows can exceed their boundaries comfortably without seeming silly.
Where The Scorchies works best is the fact that it is undoubtedly a Doctor Who story but with a zanier twist than usual, taking the Companion Chronicle series and spinning it on it’s very axis, in fact it almost seems a shame that as the series starts to come to a close, it starts to become more than just ‘stories from the perspective of the Doctor’s companions’ and starts to offer something far fresher.
If you’re after a whacky, fun and yet serious Doctor Who adventure all rolled into one, you can’t ask for more than The Scorchies.
The Scorchies is available from www.bigfinish.com now.