He’s back! The Tenth Doctor is back! I wasn’t quite prepared for the heady rush of nostalgia I’d get when I pressed play on Technophobia. This feeling only increased when Tennant and Tate arrived on the scene, in all their audio glory, and then by the title music I’d practically lost it. I’m not quite ready for how old I’m starting to feel, which sounds kinda pathetic for just a twenty-year old fan.
I was a mere ten years old when I sat down in the living room on Christmas Day 2005 to see the man who replaced ‘my Doctor’ (and Nine will always be ‘my Doctor’ since he was first I ever saw) and, to my surprise, I became almost as instantly attached to him as the previous one.
Now here I am, ten years later, hearing the first full-cast Tenth Doctor audio dramas produced by Big Finish Productions, the company that brought back Doctor Who during its wilderness years and have only grown from strength to strength ever since.
Somewhat appropriately, I can fully understand, more than ever before, how it must have felt when those Doctor Who fans heard their first Big Finish audio starring their Doctor during that period – that giddy rush of excitement when you hear the title music roll, that’s when you know they’re back, but in something completely brand new! Now they’ve reached my era of the show, where it all started for me, and that feels absolutely brilliant.
Okay, enough gushing, let’s actually review the damn thing.
Matt Fitton was presented with the incredibly ambitious task of re-establishing the characters of the Tenth Doctor, Donna Noble and that feeling of the fondly remembered Series 4 from NuWho. Thankfully, with about fifty-six minutes to spare, he successfully recreates the feeling of a series opener from RTD’s era of the show and actually makes it look rather effortless, or to be more literal, sound rather effortless.
The first audio in this new Tenth Doctor trinity gives us an outing set on modern-day Earth where ordinary humans are starting to suffer from technophobia. The premise of this story taps into a simple yet fascinating idea – what would happen if we all forgot how to use the technology we rely on every single day?
It gives way for a more atypical alien invasion, like in Partners in Crime for example, where the inter-dimensional Koggnossenti (great play on cognoscenti, meaning well-informed people) plan to reduce all humans to quivering wrecks via technology itself. And that’s not the only whiff of continuity on show, with Donna mentioning shopping at Henriks, imagining what her mum and granddad might be up to, and Bex with a ‘X’ certainly has an air of Lynda with a ‘Y’ about it. Consider my inner fanboy pleased.
Now onto the performances, and it should go without saying but I’ll say it anyway – Tennant and Tate are on top form here and that continues for the next two. From his infectious enthusiasm, unmistakable geekiness, well-known catchphrases (I’m sure I spotted “Brilliant”, “Yeah I suppose”, “Oh yes” and “I’m sorry. I’m so so sorry”) and incredible energy, David Tennant was absolutely firing on all cylinders from the get-go. Meanwhile, Catherine Tate was back to being the Doctor’s best mate and spouting hilarious and witty retorts (see Dialogue Triumphs below) before you could say “fastest temp in Chiswick”.
Nicholas Briggs’s direction is of his typically high standards as too were the guest cast with Niky Wardley turning in the most noteworthy guest performance here as she relishes in the part of Bex, who gets to be Donna’s new best mate and a pseudo-companion for this audio. I also shouldn’t forget Howard Carter’s incredible score that fits the atmosphere perfectly, really peaking at the story’s climax, which is incredibly satisfying to listen to.
- Doctor: “Look at this! They’re giving away dongles! Sparkly dongles! I do like a nice dongle; you can never have too many dongles!”
- Donna: “Doctor, stop saying dongle.”
- Donna: “You can tell it’s the future – all the films are in 3-D. Yeah there’s a Justin Bieber film… In 3-D… Is that… kind of wrong?”
- Donna: (to the Doctor) “You’re the last person I’d give caffeine to!”
- Doctor: “Donna, meet one of the finest minds in Information Technology, leading the world into a digital age.”
- Donna: “Doctor, she’s hiding under a desk.”
- Koggnossenti: “Leader, another human, in the tunnels. It has language.”
- Donna: “I’ll give you language!”
Overall, we have a very solid and satisfying return for Team Doctor-Donna, providing big ideas, entertaining dialogue and great storytelling all-round. Whilst the next two sharpen the focus on emotion and comedy respectively, Technophobia is an all-round package of everything you remember Series 4 being about.
I’d definitely recommend this to NuWho fans that fancy jumping aboard the audio-fans wagon with some familiar territory. I very much expect this will really help to expand Big Finish’s audience as well. Here’s hoping this is the first of many, many Tenth Doctor audio adventures to come.