The Genesis Chamber is an example of producer Philip Hinchcliffe being let loose on his own thematic predilections, without the sardonicism of script editor Robert Holmes to ground him in humanity’s darker inclinations. This is basically an expansion of The Face of Evil, with the mordancy of Chris Boucher replaced instead by the more optimistic themes of Hinchcliffe’s replacement. Hinchcliffe once spoke of how his own Season 15 might have included a variation on King Solomon’s Mines – a story which has already been adapted by Big Finish as The Valley of Death – and here we have an alternative reading set in the post-Star Wars sci-fi landscape.
This second Philip Hinchcliffe Presents takes place on the colony planet Terra Nuevo. The Doctor and Leela find a world divided into two conflicting factions, the Mummerset accented villagers who shun all technology, and the Inscape-worshipping city dwellers who themselves are split along political lines reminiscent of those dividing France back in 1572. But our regulars aren’t the first strangers to arrive, and the improbably handsome Volor is showing a particular interest in the city’s controlling artificial intelligence...
Hinchcliffe’s biggest deviation from mid-1970s Doctor Who is the underpinning Romeo and Juliet storyline, balanced by a similar plot thread for Leela which prefigures her eventual departure in The Invasion of Time. There’s scant evidence of the Pygmalion influence that Holmes and Boucher brought to the character, freeing Louise Jameson up to give Leela a touch more independence. That the star-crossed lovers plot plays out exactly as you’d predict also allows Hinchcliffe’s co-writer Marc Platt to use the six episodes to their best advantage, fashioning something a little more complex and cinematic than audio can usually accommodate. It’s a brave gambit that entirely works – and feels very much of its time, Ana and Shown a proto Luke and Leia and Jon Culshaw giving his best James Earl Jones as the chief villain.
Producer David Richardson and director Ken Bentley have pulled out all the stops, a fine cast and sound design going beyond even the usual quality you’d expect from Big Finish. And Tom Baker sounds more like his 1977 self than ever; Marc Platt might not have his antecedent Robert Holmes’ causticism, but as Ghost Light demonstrated, he’s very much at home in this era and his reading of the fourth Doctor is exemplary. This is very much the missing link between the derivative horrors of Season 14 and the Graham Williams producership that replaced them, and as such it doesn’t fit quite neatly into either period. Instead The Genesis Chamber presents us with something new out of something old, and you couldn’t ask for more than that.
Extras: 70 minutes behind the scenes
DOCTOR WHO - PHILIP HINCHCLIFFE PRESENTS VOLUME 2: THE GENESIS CHAMBER / DIRECTOR: KEN BENTLEY / WRITER: PHILIP HINCHCLIFFE, MARC PLATT / STARRING: TOM BAKER, LOUISE JAMESON, JOHN CULSHAW, HANNAH GENESIUS, JEMMA CHURCHILL, DAN LI, VERNON DOBTCHEFF, ARTHUR HUGHES, GYURI SAROSSY, ELLIOT CHAPMAN / PUBLISHER: BIG FINISH / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW (FROM BIG FINISH), OCTOBER 31ST (GENERAL SALE)