In Review: Big Finish – The Silurian Candidate

A Silurian plot brings the world to the brink of nuclear war

Synopsis: The Doctor, Mel and Ace arrive on Earth in the year 2085 for a reason the Doctor will not talk about. He and Ace explore the forest they have landed in and find some ancient ruins that contain a lift. Mel stays behind and notices a plane coming in to land on the TARDIS monitor. She investigates and meets up with Frank Gorrister and Professor Ruth Drexler, played by Fiona Sheehan. They are on a covert mission to steal Silurian hibernation technology, so that Ruth can present the two opposing world leaders, Chairman Falco and Director Shen, with it and secure mankind’s future. Mel points out a lift behind them and the three journey underground.

Beneath the Earth the two groups meet and Gorrister is mauled to death by a dinosaur. Ruth shows a callous disregard for him which both the Doctor and Mel call her on. The Doctor finds that the three Silurian sleep pods of the ruling triad are empty and resolves to find out what is happening. He claims that he will give the Earth back to the Silurians, a prospect which horrifies Ace. A previous adventure is alluded to with Ruth mentioning she has encrypted files from a seabase and the Doctor putting Mel forward as the go-to person for computers. The time travellers attempt to travel to a small island off the coast of Washington state, where the two world leaders are meeting, but are shot down by a Silurian missile. Mel discovers before their plane is hit that the Silurians are controlling one of the world leaders in an attempt to provoke nuclear war.

She awakes to find herself in the custody of Chordok, played by Nicholas Briggs. After attempting to talk him out of dissecting her Mel pulls a gun on the Silurian and injures him. She then makes her escape. The Doctor, Ace and Ruth find themselves on the island where the world leaders are meeting and are taken to see Chairman Falco, played by Nicholas Asbury. Falco proves brash and rude, disbelieving the Doctor and his friends about the Silurian threat and ordering them to be placed under guard. Mel comes through a secret passage into Falco’s room as Falco is rehearsing his speech and it is revealed that he is under the Silurians’ control.

After the Doctor disables the robots who were guarding them Ace steals his screwdriver and locks him in the room where they were being held. She and Ruth vow to stop Falco from starting a nuclear war. Mel finds the Doctor, who says he is going to surrender to the Silurians. Ace takes Falco’s aide hostage and Falco goads her to shoot him. Meanwhile the Doctor meets the Silurian leaders and explains that in the future mankind leaves planet Earth and returns in the future, by which point both humans and Silurians will have an equal claim to the world. Spenadus, played by Nicholas Briggs, refuses to listen to the Doctor but Avox, played by Fiona Sheehan, believes there is another way and ends up shooting Spenadus when he will not be moved from his position. The Doctor introduces Avox to Director Shen and allows them to discuss their planet’s future. Later the Doctor sets the Silurians’ hibernation pods for the year 16087 and returns to the TARDIS with Ace and Mel.

Review: This was a fantastic adventure. The amount of character development Mel received in this audio play was great to hear. I particularly liked her very Doctor-like exchange with Chordok when she said “You’re a … person of learning. You’re not a torturer.” The pacifist principles of Doctor Who are delivered here, with Mel’s horror at having shot Chordok as well as Ace’s hesitation when Falco urges her to shoot him. A nice touch I felt was Mel only having injured Chordok by shooting him and Chordok later convincing Spenadus not to kill Mel because of this.

I felt this showed the importance of humanity and kindness that is central to Doctor Who. Another great line was when Mel said “I know you can’t hear me Gorrister but I’m right here.” after Gorrister is critically injured. Mel is definitely the heart of the team in this adventure, with Mel even describing herself as “a big heart” at one point. Bonnie Langford portrayed Mel’s vulnerability and kindness excellently in this play. Sylvester McCoy is on form here as the Doctor. He is more secretive and opaque in this story than he was in The Blood Furnace, yet he remains staunchly on the side of goodness and rationality. I thought his line “No matter how many times I say there’s another way humans only ever see one!” was brilliantly delivered as was his touching vote of confidence in Ace at the end of the story.

The music in this audio play was beautiful. I felt it really evoked 80s Who as well as giving us an idea of the grandeur of the Silurians’ underground city. I thought the music that played when Mel was being chased by Kahler 2 was very much like the score from Blade Runner. Ruth was an interesting and many faceted character. It seemed as if the play was setting Ruth and Gorrister up to fall in love with their constant bickering but this was subverted with her callous disregard for his death. It was quite poignant when the Doctor and Ace compared Gorrister to the dinosaur “A watchdog that deserved to live.” There was an interesting parallel between Ruth and the Doctor in that both of them were scheming and manipulative and that they were both working towards a greater goal. Ruth and Ace’s characters were nicely contrasted when Ace showed concern for Gorrister while Ruth claimed he “made the mistake of owing her a favour.”

Chairman Falco proved to be a good and topical villain in this play, being an expy of Donald Trump. He is however humanised when he expresses surprise at the responsibilities he has as leader. He is reduced to a rather comical and inept figure by the end of the adventure, headbutting a wall to make himself explode. His taunting and goading of Ace to shoot him was well delivered by Nicholas Asbury, as was his rather offensive response to a young journalist. Another nice moment was when Chordok said “That is a human misnomer. I am a person.” in response to Mel calling him a Silurian. Ace has an excellent moment when she outwits the Doctor and sets off to save the day with Ruth that is very in character for her. It is interesting that despite the Doctor’s use of reason to attempt to solve the problem Spenadus refuses to listen and the world is saved through Avox murdering him. This is quite dark but perhaps fitting for a 7th Doctor adventure.

Overall, a brilliant audio play that deserves to be listened to.

9.1
Big Finish: Doctor Who - The Silurian Candidate
  • Acting
    9.5
  • Audio Production
    9.0
  • Art Work
    9.0
  • Story
    9.0
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