Ahh, that’s more like it. After a few months without a new slice of audio WHO, THE AXIS OF INSANITY lands on the doormat. Its nice just to hear the familiar Peter Davison theme after the McGann version that’s been doing the rounds of late, and its even nicer to hear the Fifth Doctor again. Alongside companions Peri and Erimem, he’s landed the TARDIS in the middle of the Axis- a place where time-lords mistakes are ordered and checked to ensure the primary timeline does not falter. It’s a place where the Doctor’s mistakes could come back to haunt him, or if not his, the mistakes of his people…

The Big Finish policy to use new writers for the twelve new DOCTOR WHO plays of 2004 has paid off so far this year. Having not listened to the bulk of the new McGann’s I cant comment on them, but judging from this and ARRANGEMENTS FOR WAR (the upcoming Sixth Doctor tale) it seems a new style has been injected into the series- the stories are different from the norm but these are fresh voices and that’s no bad thing. AXIS doesn’t always feel like the TV show but then it isn’t, treat this is the J-NT era as it might have been- that’s an interesting thought. Written by comic book writer Simon Furman, AXIS isn’t overly complicated but it has a pretty solid plot and a maniacally entertaining villain. Garrick Hagon takes on another bad guy role (he was Jonah in Dredd audio JIHAD last month) in the form of the Jester, a sort of DOCTOR WHO take on Batman’s Joker. He is a wonderful character, and so like the Dark Knights nemesis it got me wondering if BF could pull off some DC or MARVEL Comics audio’s- unlikely seeing as SAPPHIRE AND STEEL is on its way, but along with a BLAKES 7 aural revival it would be cool.

The cast is good all round, with TARDIS regulars Peter Davison, Nicola Bryant and Caroline Morris giving good accounts of themselves. This is despite the fact I cant stand Morris’ character of Erimem, but Caroline’s performance is pitch perfect- I just haven’t warmed to the naive Egyptian- give me time, give me time. The rest of the cast is 50/50- Hagon’s brilliant Jester we have already heard about, and his other side, Jarra To, played by Liza Ross is almost as good- she’s the Jesters more villainous side (suitably she’s a woman!- cue angry feminist emails). The only bum not in the whole thing is Tog, a native of Pangorum, a planet that shouldn’t exist. Marc Danbury plays him relatively well, but like Erimem I simply hated the character. He seems to be suffering from a case of the McCrimmon’s- which for long term fans of the show will make sense- like the Second Doctor’s faithful Scottish companion, Jamie, Tog can make massive leaps of logic in seconds that a) advance the plot and b) he really, giving his background should not be able to do. Oh well!

THE AXIS OF INSANITY is not perfect. It plods during episode three and doesn’t always make logical sense. The Jester is really, really fun but not that menacing, and by the end it all has a feeling of ‘so what?.’ Nothing is really changed at all. The Doctor saves the day right at the last moment and the Jester/Jarra To is defeated far too easily (with a handy sacrifice from Tog- what a sport!). None of the Doctor’s mistakes really come back to plague him, and we learn nothing new about the life of a time lord- the wonderfully written speech delivered so well by Davison at the climax is great stuff, but it tells us nothing new-we knew it all already. The idea of a TARDIS graveyard is a clever one, but AXIS is a bit of a hotch potch.

Treated as a fun run-around THE AXIS OF INSANITY, despite its faults delivers. Just don’t go in expecting mind blowing revelations ala MASTER. Incidentally, reading the sleeve notes I like the idea of a grown up Adric- go on BF, bring Matthew Waterhouse back (lets see if he’s improved, acting wise). Despite my wishes for the return of the pyjama clad mathematician, it was just nice to have some new audio WHO, so thanks BF!

THREE OUT OF FIVE Next Up: Colin Baker’s Sixth Doctor and Maggie Stables Evelyn Smythe deal with the fallout of their encounter with the Forge in ARRANGEMENTS FOR WAR by Paul Sutton…. ]]>

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