Audio Review: Doctor Who: Blackout

By Oli Smith

(AudioGo �10.20)

SOME of the best Doctor Who stories use a “real world” event as a springboard for the fantastical, as evidenced when the Time Lord was present at the start of the Great Fire of London, travelled alongside Marco Polo on his journey to Cathay, saw Daleks wipe out the crew of the Mary Celeste, and watched Nero fiddle while Rome burned…

On November 9 1965, New York City was plunged into darkness by an unexpected blackout which extended as far as Ontario in Canada. Reports of UFO sightings at the time were unsubstantiated, even though some conspiracy theorists attributed extraterrestrial intervention as the cause of the power cut.

Our story begins with a NY cab driver called Clint explaining to his psychiatrist about his strange dreams of being transported into the sky by a white light and having needles pushed into his body… But the real shrink has been replaced by a man known only as the Doctor, and Clint suddenly finds his dreams are rooted in reality.

The city’s water supply has been poisoned by an otherworldly disease, and the Doctor, Amy and Rory are all slowly succumbing to its effects. With his companions attempting to evade alien businessmen and somehow disrupt the water supply, the Doctor tries to contact the invisible spacecraft hovering ominously above the skyline.

As New Yorkers succumb to the disease, their bodies are literally frozen, an original twist on the old spontaneous combustion plight, and the Doctor realises that he must make a terrible decision in order to save the lives of his friends…

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Unlike many recent Who exclusives, this audio isn’t read by one of the main cast, but instead by Stuart Milligan, who played President Nixon in the latest series. This helps when it comes to capturing American accents, but initially jars somewhat when he’s reading dialogue for the Doctor, Amy and Rory.

A somewhat surreal adventure which benefits from repeat listening after you’re made aware of the aliens’ motivations at the end. The 1960s US setting is unfortunately a bit close thematically to the opening episodes of the current TV series, with even the protagonists looking remarkably similar to the on-screen Silence.

Although there are plenty of action sequences, there are equally moments which feel like padding, leaving the listener with the impression of a TV episode unnecessarily stretched beyond a comfortable length, which is a shame.

But don’t let that put you off immersing yourself in this thoroughly entertaining adventure, which proves once again how flexible the Who format truly is. But after penning various Doctor Who books and audios set in the United States, surely it’s about time Oli Smith found a different location for his future stories?

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