Doctor Who and crime capers haven’t always been an easy mixture given 2014’s moderately average TV story, Time Heist, and while Life of Crime doesn’t really offer anything new to the table, it still offers up some great ideas, and an ingenious new monster and a potential new enemy for future audio adventures. On top of that, we see Melanie “Mel” Bush reunite with the Seventh Doctor and Ace after their adventure together in TV’s Dragonfire, which saw Mel depart and Ace arrive. Since she was added into in the audio world of Big Finish, Bonnie Langford’s Mel has been given such much-needed depth given that her character was pretty generic in the TV adventures. Whenever she was paired with Colin Baker or Sylvester McCoy’s Doctors in the audio adventures, she became far more interesting, and in this story we ultimately discover what has happened to her since she left Ice World with Sabalom Glitz in Dragonfire.
Writer Matt Fitton makes Mel more complex and somewhat untrusting at first, and we get to see an interesting dynamic between her and Sophie Aldred’s Ace, as well as the reestablishment of her relationship with the Doctor. We see how Mel has become unhappy about the Machiavellian attitude Doctor Seven has taken on, and the Doctor is upset that Glitz has apparently had a bad influence on Mel, but the core of this story is about those two overcoming their apparent differences to overcome greater odds in the form of new enemies, the vile species of alien banker/devourer known as the Speravores. They’re pretty grotesque creatures and pose as a good threat to the overarching story, however their ability to feed of their victim’s potential energy does sound like a rip off of the Weeping Angels’ ability to feed of the potential energy, even if they do it via a different method of killing.
Also, despite the fact that Sophie Aldred still nails the character of Ace to a T, she does end up getting the short end of the stick here, as in this story she’s presented as an extreme hothead who becomes less necessary than Mel. Sure, we see how skilled she is in a situation, especially when she whips out her trusty nitro-9, but Ace is not quite on her A-game here and it’s both the Doctor and Mel that ends up fixing most of the problems in the story. However, both Sylvester McCoy and Bonnie Langford give spirited performances, and Ginny Holder delivers a strong performance as sly manipulator Gloria, who looks set to be a major foe for future stories.
In the end, Life of Crime is an enjoyable romp, even if it’s not one of the best of Big Finish’s stories. The story and pacing can get a bit too timey-wimey for its own good, a lot of the supporting characters don’t make an impact, the Speravores’ powers are very gimmicky, and Ace doesn’t really get to shine in the grand scheme of things. However, the story still holds up well thanks to some genuinely chilling moments, a great setup to Gloria becoming a new potential big bad for the future, and offers a great insight into the Doctor and Mel’s relationship, which finally shows just how far Mel, as a character, has come.
DOCTOR WHO: A LIFE OF CRIME / DIRECTOR: KEN BENTLEY / AUTHOR: MATT FITTON / STARRING: SYLVESTER MCCOY, SOPHIE ALDRED, BONNIE LANGFORD, GINNY HOLDER, DES MCALEER, STEPHEN HAGAN, HARRY MYERS, JOHN BANKS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW