Sunday 20 September 2015

4th Doctor 4.4 - Death Match

When I was younger, in the 1980’s, I was an avid reader of 2000 AD – not so much for Judge Dredd, but for Strontium Dog. Strontium Dog was the derogatory term for mutants who took on the job of Bounty Hunters, and the hero of the comic strip was Johnny Alpha. His mutation if I remember correctly was something to do with his eyes – anyhow, there was one Strontium Dog story that stuck with me, it was called The Killing. So famous was this story that it even had a spin off ZX Spectrum game. In the Killing, combatants enter an arena and pick each other off until only one remains, the tension in this particular story was that Johnny Alpha’s best friend Wulf Sternhammer was also a contestant…
It’s a story that has been told many times. The latest big screen version is probably The Hunger Games, a similar theme and a similar outcome, and now this month’s Fourth Doctor release from Big Finish enters this arena (sorry) of story telling with Death Match.
Following on from last month’s story, Leela has been kidnapped by The Master and fights as his champion in the Death match. The match itself is entertainment for oligarchs, criminals and the super-rich and their champions fight each other for their sponsors entertainment. The Doctor is summoned by Marshall (he from last months Rocket Men story), he is looking for Leela and the trail leads to the Quarry Station and the Death Match. The games have recently come under new management and the new manager is none other than The Master, played with oily charm by Geoffrey Beevers and into this comes the Fourth Doctor, all moral outrage and crusading zeal, very reminiscent of his persona in the early Hinchcliffe era rather than my preferred “boggle eyed loon” version. If you have seen The Hunger Games, you pretty much know what to expect, the this here being that the Doctor, Leela and her romantic lead Marshall are all involved in the arena, and it really really does not end well.
It’s a very safe story, not really breaking any new ground using a tried and tested basis for the story, one that listeners will be familiar with. It’s workmanlike, but will never set the world alight. That’s not to say it doesn’t have its moments, and as usual (I seem to be saying this most months) it is Louise Jameson that shines. Her range is stunning, she lends the situation true urgency, sadness, rage and a sense of loss – because after all the gun-ho battling, the final few minutes are an emotionally charged, seldom seen (or heard) venture into new Who territory of love and loss.
Overall, not a Match of the day, more of a mid-table clash. 6/10.

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