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DOCTOR WHO – PEST CONTROL/THE FOREVER TRAP

Written By:

Paul Mount
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Originally released back in 2008 during the imperial phase of David Tennant’s run as the Tenth Doctor, these two BBC exclusive audio adventures – narrated by Tennant and his then co-star Catherine Tate (the redoubtable Donna Noble) – are now given a new lease of life thanks to Demon Records. Six brightly-coloured yellow 12-inch discs – three blood red, three in sparkling yellow – are housed in a sturdy, well-illustrated box with three separate discs devoted to each adventure. With Tennant recently back in the Who spotlight thanks to his turn as the Fourteenth Doctor last year (alongside Tate returning as Noble), this set might well fall into the more niche category of Doctor Who merch, but it’s sure to be irresistible to completists and Tennant devotees alike.

Peter Anghelides’ Pest Control is quite a grim and uncompromising affair, read with gusto by Tennant in his native Scottish accent but slipping into his more RP on-screen tones when voicing the Doctor and delivering a creditable impersonation of Tate’s strangulated pronunciation when Donna takes centre-stage. Fans of classic Who will recognise several plot elements here – the smoky, grimy warzone reminds of the opening sequences of 1975’s Genesis of the Daleks, and the presence of an obsequious journalist evokes 1968’s Web of Fear. There’s even a whiff of 2007’s Tennant-starring The Doctor’s Daughter here and there. The TARDIS pitches up on the war-torn surface of an alien planet where the human race (obviously) is fighting a war of attrition with the planet’s centaur-like inhabitants. Throw in humans transforming into man-sized beetles, a giant sentient robot, a bit of effective body horror, and, of course, the Doctor and Donna separated and isolated from the TARDIS, and you’ve got a fast-paced, witty, well-observed Doctor Who action-romp studded with the odd sound effect and a few atmospheric musical stings.

Dan Abnett’s The Forever Trap has its roots sunk deep into 1987’s Sylvester McCoy romp Paradise Towers, a serial whose dark affectations were scuppered by clumsy production and pantomime performances. Abnett refashions the story here, as a piece of futuristic spam mail arriving in the TARDIS leads the pair to ‘The Edifice’, a futuristic compound where a wild array of alien lifeforms live shoulder-to-shoulder, all of them in fear of something evil and sinister lurking amongst them. Tate is clearly having a great time with this one, demonstrating a vast array of voices – many of which quickly become a bit grating and annoying, admittedly – but she steps effortlessly back into her TV role as the feisty Donna and even makes a decent stab at capturing Tennant’s lively, excitable, ten-words-a-second interpretation of the tenth Doctor.

A handy reminder of the true glory days of modern Doctor Who, this new release is a shot of pure, if recent, nostalgia. It’s likely to find favour not only with hardcore collectors but also those who might be finding the show’s brash, anything-goes new incarnation a little hard to come to terms with.

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PEST CONTROL/THE FOREVER TRAP is released in a vinyl boxset from Demon Records on May 24th.

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