This month’s main range audio is the rather Douglas Adams-y titled “The High Price of Parking”, though the actually story is less Adams-y, though very few if any story are… Anywho! It’s a fun story in places, but also a pretty generic one, once you get past some of the sillier story beats and setting, it’s pretty run of the mill stuff. Ah well… Let’s take a closer look!
The planet Dashrah is a world of exceptional beauty. Historical ruins; colourful skies; swirling sunsets…
Unsurprisingly, it’s a major tourist trap. So if you want to visit Dashrah, first you’ll have to visit Parking, the artificial planetoid that Galactic Heritage built next door. Parking, as its name implies, is a spaceship park. A huge spaceship park. A huge, enormous spaceship park.
When the TARDIS materialises in Parking’s Northern Hemisphere, the Doctor, Ace and Mel envisage a quick teleport trip to the surface of Dashrah. But they’ve reckoned without the superzealous Wardens, and their robotic servitors… the sect of the Free Parkers, who wage war against the Wardens… the spontaneously combusting spaceships… and the terrifying secret that lies at the lowest of Parking’s lower levels.
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Cast of Characters:
The Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) – The Doctor is desperate to get to the bottom of one of the universe’s great mysteries, but instead gets stuck in a car park. Unusual! … wait, the car park is full of people trying to arrest or kill him? That’s better.
Ace (Sophie Aldred) – After losing Hex as a travelling companion, Ace has somehow mentally regressed, and is starting to act like her old, younger self again. Bollocks.
Mel (Bonnie Langford) – After having just recently re-joined the TARDIS after a period of crime with Sabalom Glitz, Mel has surprisingly not changed much. Her 80s-based computer skills seem to have greatly improved though!
Kempton (Hywel Morgan) – One of the wardens of Parking who is actually playing both sides against each other, Free Parkers and Wardens, to please his new master…
Seraphim (Kate Duchene) – Rogue spaceship A.I. that believes itself a God and wishes to free its people (fellow lost spaceships) and wipe out all organic life.
Not the most exciting cover in the world… Which is pretty apt…
Although the whole “nomadic tribe based on an old current day thing” isn’t a new concept… at all, the idea of one of these tribes being made up of descendants of people who couldn’t find their spaceships on the planet-sized parking lot and ended up settling down is funny. The idea that they want Parking to become a free planet leads to their tagline of “Free Parking!” is an amusing twist. Overall, it’s an old idea, but at least the new coat of paint its been given here is a fun one.
Unsurprisingly given it’s a John Dorney script, most of the dialogue is funny, clever or just generally well written. The Doctor and Ace are given plenty to do and the extra characters, specifically the excellently sniveling Kempton, are fun to hear. The only one who isn’t served well here is Mel, which I’ll get to down below.
The big bad of the story is another rogue sentient A.I.? Wow, along with the modern-based simple tribe troupe, that two in one! Though unlike the former, which at least had a fun spin on it, the A.I. bit was pretty dull. The end confrontation between the Doctor and the A.I. (Seraphim) just wasn’t that exciting. Seraphim even transferred itself into Kempton for a few minutes before being finally defeated, but I just wasn’t that interested.
I felt sorry for Mel here, who almost literally spends the entire story in front of a computer, cut off from The Doctor and Ace, and does very little other than go from one room to another alongside basic bored officer worker Cowley (played by Gabrielle Glaister, a.k.a. Bob from Blackadder!) Ignoring the fact that her computer skills are now way higher than they should be (you can always chalk that up to the months spent with Glitz) she just wasn’t interesting this time round.
I also have to re-mention how annoying it is after so many years of Ace’s character development throughout the Hex stories, to have her return to her TV self. It makes no sense. Why not just place these stories directly after the TV series ended (or after the Lost Stories Big Finish-wise) ?
Nothing specific, though as I said the tribes based on modern concepts has been done at least four times, with the Fourth Doctor TV serial “The Face of Evil” and Seventh Doctor TV serial “Paradise Towers” (*shudder*), or the Sixth Doctor audio story “Spaceport Fear” and the Seventh Doctor audio “The Warehouse”. As far as some concepts go that’s not too bad, but still…
I’m not going to list rouge A.I. stories, because I’d be here forever, but Doctor Who is far from the only thing guilty of that troupe…
This may be the first and (hopefully only) John Dorney script to get below a 4, but it happens. It has his usual witty and funny dialogue, but the main adversary that takes over half way through is dull as dishwater, and the story doesn’t rocket along as much as slowly drags out. It’s your classic “didn’t hate it, didn’t love it, I’ll forget all about it in a months time” Main Range Doctor Who story…