Synopsis: In Water Worlds The Sixth Doctor returns. Of course, he’s thrown straight in at the deep end! This time, he’s traveling the galaxy with Melanie Bush and their brand-new companion. For marine biologist Hebe Harrison, there are wonders to see, dangers to face, and plenty of peril beneath the waves.
Review: I’m a wheelchair-bound Whovian. I’ve been waiting for this storyline for 35 years.
Before I discuss what listeners do get, however, I need to comment on what we don’t. First, there aren’t any historical adventures in this set.
That’s perfectly understandable. Six wouldn’t want to change human history by introducing wheelchairs before their time.
Moreover, the only way to hide Hebe’s chair in a past era would be to give her a perception filter. This would only isolate Hebe, which is the exact opposite of what she needs.
Second, listeners aren’t given any exposition dialogue explaining how Hebe gets into the Tardis. The broken Chameleon Circuit affects the outer shell, including the doors. Her chair wouldn’t fit.
Presumably, Hebe folds up her chair, pushes it through, and follows in an army crawl. Hopefully, the writers remembered that detail for subsequent stories.
All that said, the three tales in this set do an excellent job of introducing Hebe. By the end of this first volume, she’s able to integrate herself into the Tardis team.
“The Rotting Deep” by Jacqueline Rayner is an excellent introduction for Hebe. I particularly appreciated her dynamic with Mel.
Additionally, I liked how the psychological effects of a standard Doctor Who invisible threat in a confined area scenario manifested for a wheelchair user.
“The Tides of the Moon” by Joshua Pruett is a marvelous were creature story with interesting world building. My favorite character beat involved Hebe learning the Golden Rule applies to first contact as well as disability etiquette.
“Maelstrom” by Jonathan Morris is a body swap narrative in which Hebe isn’t tempted to swap bodies. I really liked the lesson that Hebe didn’t need fixing.
That said, Morris didn’t have enough time to adequately explore why the Veludians needed to swap bodies. It was a conversation that was worth having.
As ever, Colin Baker and Bonnie Langford are excellent. However, the set belongs to Ruth Madeley.
Madeley knows fans like me have been waiting for a companion like Hebe. She also knows that Hebe is a pioneer in a dangerous universe.
Madeley doesn’t have the luxury of sugar coating the fact Hebe can’t run. She has to present a layered portrayal of exuberant wonder tempered by realistic responses to fraught situations.
That’s the inescapable dichotomy disabled Whovians have been confronting since 1963. Madeley is more than up to the challenge of embodying that dichotomy.
Thank you, Big Finish. It was time for this storytelling. The only thing Hebe needs now is a K-9 of her own.
He’s both a service dog and assistive technology. As such, he’s the only other companion I related to before Hebe. The two of them would have a great deal to say to each other.
You can purchase Doctor Who: The Sixth Doctor Adventures: Water Worlds here.
- Audio Production10