Saturday, 23 May 2015
REVIEW - DAMAGED GOODS
Wow! Just wow! The hype train starts here and there is an awful lot to praise about this audio drama from Big Finish.
Adapted by Jonathan Morris, originally scripted by Russell T Davies, this story is one of the stronger ones in RTD’s arsenal. The novel-to-audio adaptations are usually moderately good, but Damaged Goods is anything but. RTD knows the Seventh Doctor and clearly knows the era he’s writing for.
Truth be told, the tendency to sometimes insert unneeded ‘domestic’ drama into his stories is something that I’m not fond of in Russell’s scripts as Doctor who is at its core a SCI-FI drama. However, this obscure tale is built on domestics and really manages to take the theme into dark territories. I can clearly see how the BBC would object to turning Damaged Goods into a Series 1 episode. It has drugs, child auctions and tragedy from the get go. In fact, the ending blurs the lines between bittersweet and blatant downer.
The Seventh Doctor’s character here is utterly perfect. He is properly aware of things, unwilling to share information, plots behind the scenes and even manages to say ‘I refuse to save the world over the phone’.
I can easily see RTD writing for Seven back when Doctor who was still on air in the late eighties or had it not been cancelled, the early 90s.
Onto the companions: This is the first I’ve ‘seen’ of Roz and Chris, but thank the Doctor Who gods that we finally get a pair who get the whole ‘don’t change time by saving people who are already/supposed to be dead’. It is one of the oldest and deadest (pun intended) Doctor Who tropes that a companion has to nag and berate the Doctor for maintaining his precious ‘timeline’ when he could be saving their loved ones or people they’ve just met. Whatever else their personality contains, the fact that Chris and Roz accept this rule, even if they don’t like it, already sets them up as unique from countless other companions who are ruined by this trope. I felt more of a connection to Chris because of his down-to-earth and confident nature than Roz, who doesn’t do very much in this story.
A criticism of this story would have to be Bev, the Rose Tyler 14-yar old stand in. She is portrayed as this bratty 80s kid whose whole purpose is to be upset at everything and everyone and get the plot started. Another criticism that is shared by the majority of the Seventh Doctor novels is the gambit pileup. There are multiple plot threads that are playing out simultaneously, seemingly unconnected at first which might disorientate someone who is used to simplerstorytelling narratives. For the longest time, the ‘capper drug dealer’ sub-plot felt intrusive and unrelated to the main adventure the Doctor and company were involved in.
And the cu de gra ladies and gentlemen. It shouldn’t come as that big a surprise after recent announcements that Big Finish have acquired the Torchwood license, but even I didn’t expect to get a reference in a Classic Doctor story, much less the WHOLE reference:
“Torchwood. I work for Torchwood.”
“Never heard of them.” – Seventh Doctor
Some of you might see this as a continuity snarl, but the nature of the reference and how it is used doesn’t contaminate continuity at all. Better even, we get a “Time War” reference as well. This is probably the closest Big Finish has come right after the Torchwood reference to mentioning the new series. It comes as a great pleasure to hear New Who and Classic Who melding together at the heart of Big Finish.
Rating this story: 9/10. The epitome of what the Seventh Doctor Era is about.