DOCTOR WHO: COLD FUSION

PrintE-mail Written by J. R. Southall

This is an odd fish. Adapted from his own well-regarded 1996 New Adventure by Lance Parkin, Cold Fusion is the only time Virgin Publishing issued an original novel featuring more than one classic series Doctor, and it’s hard to see why in particular this story couldn’t have been told with just the one, the seventh. Parkin has also chosen to keep the story’s six-episode structure, which makes a rather strange fit for its slot immediately following the Fifth Doctor’s debut Castrovalva. And the subject matter – a high-tech supernatural thriller disguising an investigation of the Doctor’s origins, and an introduction to the woman who might be his wife – is supremely at odds with the antiseptic ethos of the era. It’s Peter Davison’s incarnation in a story that flatters to suit him but is actually very radically not something he’d ever have appeared in.

The Fifth Doctor and extended 1982 crew arrive on an ex-mining colony ice planet where time disturbances are producing ghosts, and where the ruling Scientifica are examining something that might be a buried spaceship – and where the seventh Doctor’s NA companions Roz and Cwej are conducting an investigation of their own. Before long the various companions have scattered off into cross-generational teams and the Doctor is hooking up with a mysterious regenerating woman who just might be more to him than he can possibly imagine…

Parkin sets the scene for any number of ensuing courses which the drama doesn’t really seem to follow. There’s the potential for farcical humour given the Seventh Doctor’s mostly non-presence in the early instalments, and much is made of Cwej’s part-impersonation of Tegan and subsequent almost-seduction of Nyssa, but neither strand really goes anywhere and the reluctance to fully engage with them leaves them unfulfilled. Patience’s story, while evidently deliberately ambiguous, consequently fails to land and while it’s clearly intended as a reflection of the Ferutu storyline – an alternative timeline that might be either prevented or brought into being – it’s difficult to see the parallels.

Conversely, the tonal distractions and thematic inconsistencies – plus the opportunity to listen to McCoy’s new companions interacting with Davison’s television team, and finally the meeting of the two Doctors in the concluding episode – do make Cold Fusion a confusing but essential listening experience. There is even pleasure to be derived from noting the differing acting styles, which occasionally clash in unexpectedly delightful ways.

It’s a story that unfolds at an initially glacial pace (thanks to the extra hour’s worth of running time) and intrigues from the off, but ultimately never really repays the listener’s dedication. It’s a proper folly, and despite its undoubted entertainment value, difficult not to feel it might have been better left on the page.

DOCTOR WHO: COLD FUSION / AUTHOR: LANCE PARKIN / DIRECTOR: JAMIE ANDERSON / PUBLISHER: BIG FINISH / STARRING: PETER DAVISON, SYLVESTER MCCOY, MATTHEW WATERHOUSE, SARAH SUTTON, JANET FIELDING, YASMIN BANNERMAN, TRAVIS OLIVER / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW (BIG FINISH), JANUARY 31ST (ELSEWHERE)

 


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