Sunday 20 September 2015

4th Doctor 4.3 - Requiem For the Rocket Men

Third times a charm is a saying, not a saying I say a lot, but a saying nonetheless. It perplexes me – not sure why – but it does. Anyway, as always , I digress, but I do like a good digression usually get to the point in the end…
In work the other day I had to deliver a morning meeting, I started off asking did anyone remember Sesame Street – blank looks, then laughter, but it made them pay attention and it was relevant to the point I was making, which brings me nicely to how the phrase “third times a charm” is relevant to this month’s Fourth Doctor audio release.
Requiem for the Rocket Men, for those unfamiliar, is the third story featuring the Rocket Men. The first two were Hartnell era Companion Chronicles and were very well received, this story is the first time that they receive the “full cast” treatment.
The story begins with a monologue from Leela. Louise Jameson is surely one of the most talented actors we have had the privilege to appear on Doctor Who, and here she does not disappoint; she muses over the lessons she has learned from The Doctor and whether she has learned enough to go it alone. It’s spine-tingling stiff, real “hairs on the back of the arms standing up” acting, and it’s the highlight of the story for me. And so on to the story…
The Doctor is kidnapped by the Rocket Men – ah the Rocket Men, space pirates who wear rocket-propelled suits, have a huge crime empire ruled over by their monarch King Shandar, played by Mark Frost, it’s all very B-Movie in appearance, but in tone it isn’t. It’s played completely straight, which is a problem. The Rocket Men are stereotypical space pirates complete with comedy accents, but the tone of the story does not support this, it’s far more Hinchcliffe then Williams.
The Master shows up as well as an ally, unaware that the Rocket Men have captured the Doctor – Geoffrey Beevers is oilily charming but also grotesque as the emaciated Master, but really does not serve much of a purpose in the plot apart from being the device that leads to the next story. As much as this story revolves around the Rocket Men and two Time Lords, the main positive I have taken away from it is Lousie Jameson’s quite astounding character development with Leela. At the end of this story Leela has blossomed, is self-aware, confident, mature and experienced – her time with the Doctor refining her character, she has become more than a creature of instinct, she has developed reason and unlocked the power of her intelligence – Louise, if you are reading this, thank you this was one of your best performances as Leela.
The story is a very traditional one, hi-jinks, escapades, capture, escape, double-crosses and a cliffhanger ending – maybe a bit too traditional for me, and again there is the problem with tone. I really do think it would have worked better if it were played a bit more silly.
So, third time not a charm for me I am afraid, an average story but an astounding performance from Louise Jameson.
5/10 for the story and 11/10 for Louise.

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