The Brown Death
September 2002An unusual little story, the old pollution chestnut. And we are introduced to Susie-Jo Parker with Long Red hair? (Do all the DWAD girls have Red Hair?) Sorry to say but she is the most pointless person ever, the audio drama character WHO CAN'T TALK!?. I must admit that I adore the way the Doctor bursts his way into Donald Parkinsons office, And the entire clearly improvised exchange, is very "realistic" the way they overtalk each other is just the way that people do in real life, which is something you hardly ever get in real audio dramas, and that makes the exchange quite fun. Just what was Susie-Jo exposing that meant that Donald sent a hit man after her? Tthat seemed a bit.........much, I love the line "I'm glad your not.....hurt Susie-Jo" My final point must be though that David Segals Doctor is quite powerful in this story.
May 2005The Brown Death is, at 18 minutes long, the shortest DWAD currently in the catalogue. The basics of the story are standard Who stuff...a big bad corporation causing damage to the surrounding environment and communities. However, this story had the potential to break the mould and put a different spin on this storyline in the way that it ultimately showed the humanity of the corporation's leader. But unfortunately, The Brown Death tried for too much in the 18 allotted minutes, and as a result the climax of the story feels forced and unnatural. Had more time been available to develop the character of the lead villain, had we been given any sympathetic glimpse at this man, the story's resolution could have been truly poignant.
From a historical perspective, the story is relatively important for two reasons. One, it's the oldest DWAD in the catalogue for which no lines have been re-recorded. Two, it introduces us to one of the most unusual companions the Doctor has ever traveled with...
Susie Jo Parker joins the Tardis crew in this adventure. What makes her unusual, especially for an audio series, is that she is mute. Now, I can only speculate why the DWAD staff would introduce a mute character to the series. Perhaps actress availability was a problem; perhaps they really wanted to push the envelope and try something really risky...maybe a bit of both. It's impossible to say from this one story whether this experiment worked; we'll have to stay tuned and see how Susie Jo works out in subsequent stories. In this one story, because her character and her disability are central to the story, she works OK, but it's difficult to imagine a continuing character whose presence in any scene will only be noted by the comments of others.
The Brown Death is in many ways the oldest DWAD available, and it shows its age. Still, David Segal's performance is spot on, and the Doctor has never been more Doctorish. It's good to see him saving the world from a more realistic danger than he usually faces, a danger that we continue to face in our world today.
Starting off as a short yet standard Doctor Who adventure about a company polluting the atmosphere, this story heads in an altogether unexpected way with the introduction of Susie Jo Parker.
It's a brave step to introduce a character in an audio drama who is mute, braver still to add the person to the mix as an ongoing companion.
Within the confines of this particular story the gamble pays off, but this is aided by the fact that Susie Jo's inability to speak is central to the plot.
There are some great moments in the audio, I particularly liked the moment when the Doctor asks after Sarah Jane and his obvious delight when he hears she's been promoted. Segal gives an excellent performance as the Doctor and his dialogue flows extremely naturally.
Although the story is well told, there is one part of the tale that doesn't work for me, and that is the resolution. So far we have heard the main protagonist order the killing of Susie Jo and co, ignore any recrimination of his actions and generally appear unconcerned with the plight he is causing. This makes it all the harder to believe his change of personality after the death of his son, supposedly caused by his own actions. If we had seen a softer side to his character up to this point it may have been a little more plausible, but as it is the turnaround seems wildly out of character. Perhaps if the story had been expanded into a second episode there would have been more time to flesh out Parkinson's character, but as it is this most important scene fails because it asks the listener to suspend their disbelief more than is possible.
I look forward to listening to Mindmask next, and hearing (no pun intended) how Susie Jo pans out in a new adventure where her character's disability isn't central to the plot
The Brown Death is the first story from the twenty-second season of The Doctor Who Audio Dramas. It is a surprisingly short production, as it only consists of one singular episode, which is actually slightly shorter in duration than usual anyway! David Segal plays the lead role of The Doctor, and Karen Walters plays the companion role of Susie Jo Parker. For those who take note of the companion status, Dr. Kevin Vasavious makes no appearance in this serial.
To begin with, the storyline seems to be meant to inform the general public of the ever-growing risk of pollution. To be perfectly honest, not much Doctor Who related plot points were involved. However, the fact that Susie Jo is a reporter from the Sunday Times, seems to relate back to the days of Sarah Jane Smith. With her being a journalist, there is a sort of relation between the two female companions.
It's nice to see that the writer of the story, Thomas Himinez, has an interest and concern about pollution. To be perfectly honest, it is really something that everyone should pay attention to! Incorporating such factors into a Doctor Who storyline seemed like a good enough idea. People can also be made to feel guilty about how they've polluted the atmosphere in the past by listening to some of the final scenes. I'll leave it up to you to find out exactly what I mean.
After taking this all into account, I think that the absence of Kevin's character might have been a bad idea. He has proved to be one of the most popular companions from The Doctor Who Audio Dramas, and the fact that the story is so short could cause a few people to lose interest. Also, the fact that Susie Jo can't speak due to the acidic water incident, makes the audio seem both ridiculous, but intriguing at the same time.
As a final comment, I think that I can say The Brown Death was a terribly ambitious production, which eventually seemed to work out. Even though not that many plot points related to past Doctor Who events, the story still managed to grab my attention. I would easily find the time to listen to it again.
Last updated: Saturday, October 6, 2007