Andy Lane’s 1995 Virgin New Adventure was the story that introduced new companions Roz Forrester and Chris Cwej (you can just pronounce it Cwej), and with the pair having recently appeared in Damaged Goods and concurrently in Cold Fusion, it made sense to adapt Lane’s book too. Fortunately it fell to John Dorney (over-simply described as “Big Finish’s Robert Holmes”) to put the words in the script. It sounds like he had an absolute blast.
The Doctor and archaeologist companion Bernice Summerfield (Lisa Bowerman, who always brings a touch of class to anything she’s involved in) receive a dire warning about something enigmatic that might be happening on 30th century Earth, specifically in what used to be London. As Bernice has been told not to risk going anywhere near Spaceport Overcity Five (i.e. London), that’s exactly where she and the Doctor head – just exactly as a pair of Adjudicators (i.e. police) investigate a simple and unimportant murder case that proves to be anything but. After a visit to a military training planet that is divided into hexagonal reconstructions of alien battlefields, and avoiding two death sentences, Bernice eventually teams up with the two Adjudicators as the Doctor heads off to a prison on a planet inside a star, while the four of them plus an undercover agent whose real identity is as much a mystery to him as it is to anyone else, attempt to discover why otherwise ordinary people are taking to murdering their neighbours with no apparent provocation.
If it all sounds like the kind of space opera that might have turned up in Season Seventeen, that’s not too wide of the mark – although equally this comes across as exactly the kind of thing Malcolm Hulke might have produced if he’d ever been persuaded to write for Blakes 7. Director Ken Bentley must take much of the “blame”; the script for the second of the two hour-ish long instalments could easily have been played over-sincerely, but instead Bentley amplifies the performances and pace until Original Sin hits a kind of serene hysteria, punctuated by the seventh Doctor’s conversations with a returning villain we shan’t name just in case anyone reading this is still ignorant of his appearance. It all zips along at a rate of licks but there’s never once the sense that the listener might get left behind. It’s just simple, breathless, entertainment.
Not that the actors aren’t taking themselves seriously, they’re just enjoying themselves while doing it, and the entire cast is in on the wheeze – so much so it would be wrong to single out any one performer for praise above the others. Rather, let’s just recommend you treat yourself to this tremendously enjoyable play.
DOCTOR WHO: ORIGINAL SIN / AUTHOR: ANDY LANE, ADAPTED BY JOHN DORNEY / DIRECTOR: KEN BENTLEY / STARRING: SYLVESTER McCOY, LISA BOWERMAN, YASMIN BANNERMAN, TRAVIS OLIVER / PUBLISHER: BIG FINISH / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW (VIA BIG FINISH), FEBRUARY 2017 (GENERAL SALE)