AUDIO REVIEW: BOUNTY OF CERES (DOCTOR WHO) / AUTHOR: IAN POTTER / PUBLISHER: BIG FINISH / STARRING: PETER PURVES, MAUREEN O’BRIEN, RICHARD HOPE, JULIA HILLS, PETER FORBES / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Bounty of Ceres is the latest two-disc release in the Big Finish Early Adventures range. It is a story set in the early days of the show and featuring the characters of Steven Taylor (Purves) and Vicki (O’Brien), with both of the actors involved also narrating in a way that gives this the feel of a BBC off-air sound recording of the original show, where narrative explains visual elements not clear from dialogue (a style the BBC has used on various otherwise lost story audio releases). Peter Purves also provides a solid impression of Hartnell. The story is rounded off with three other characters – space station commander Qureshi (Hills), likable engineer Thorn (Forbes) and stressed-out engineer Moreland (Hope).
The action takes place on Ceres (a large asteroid between Mars and Jupiter), for a change we have a remote mining base suffering a series of increasingly disruptive accidents and a suspicious crew. Into this mix comes the TARDIS, malfunctioning and stranding the Doctor, Steven, and Vicki until it can be repaired. As the TARDIS crew explore, the base suffers another accident exposing them to the vacuum of space. Over the course of two discs, the workings of the remote Cobalt Corporation and the grim reality of life on Earth in out future come to the fore as we realise Ceres itself is the threat. Where this story is strong is how it gives us a sense of how being from the further future doesn’t mean Steven of Vicki know what is going on.
What makes this story worthy of special praise is how Ian Potter weaves a tale of people suffering under the remote isolation of life in the asteroid belt on a ten-year shift and what lengths they will go to as the pressure builds. The future technology is also well described and supports the story without dominating. There are twists and the story is also of the era it purports to be – the universe isn’t saved, the web of time is unbroken; we have a story of well portrayed, real people and the cold mind of the final part is a monster we can too easily believe in.
The production is of the usual quality and for the most part Purves’s Hartnell impression works well, faltering only on the longer sequences. O’Brien also revives her character in convincing fashion. It is remarkable to note this is the first time these two actors have performed together since they were on screen together.
Big Finish released The Bounty of Ceres on November 14; full details are available on their website for this and the rest of this series.
The new Early Adventures range continues to impress and comes to a conclusion in December. The impression so far is that four releases aren’t going to be enough to satisfy the listener’s appetite for quality audio drama.
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