The Christmas Conspiracy

William Merlock

January 2008

In 2007, the Doctor Who Audio Dramas took a page from the BBC and webcast a special Christmas Day episode of their series. It's not surprising that this one-part story, The Christmas Conspiracy, suffers from some of the same deficiencies of its TV predecessor.

The major flaw, I think, it that it's really difficult to do Doctor Who in 45 minutes, doubly so when the Doctor's companion is missing from the story. So much time had to be spent setting things up, including introducing us to the new pseudo-companion, that insufficient time was left for the story. As a result, we wind up with largely one-dimensional characters and a plot that felt a little threadworn and lacked the vibrancy of a typical John Drew audio drama. I think I felt this a little more because, having become very fond of the Doctor's new companion Moira Skye and the way her character is developing, I truly missed her presence in this story.

Like I said above, the plot felt less than vibrant. There was a sociopolitical message in there that seemed a little forced, and was never really able to develop as it should. I get the impression that if this story had run two or three episodes it would have been much stronger. (Just as a comparison, if I recall correctly, the final episode of The Perfection Society ran longer than this entire story.)

Because it was written by John Drew and carefully crafted by the DWAD staff, it's also not surprising that there were many strong points that lifted this story above the standards set by its TV analog. In a masterful stroke, Drew has the Doctor do some undercover work that became the high point of the story. Mr. Flynn is such a strong and versatile voice actor, he was able to successfully portray the Doctor “in disguise” while making him continuously recognizable to the listener. Mr. Flynn's incarnation is meant to be a Sherlockian take on the Doctor; as Mr. Holmes often went in disguise, I hope that there will be more opportunities in the future for Flynn's Doctor to do the same.

There was also an interesting twist near the ending of the story, and it seems that Mr. Drew has set the stage for a long-running battle between the Doctor and....well, we don't really know who, just yet. This was a clever ending, and perhaps when we look back on this story as a prologue to an ongoing story arc, the flaws I am describing here might be rendered inconsequential.

And I've got to say, although this isn't the most positive review I've ever written, it was great to see John Drew's return to the DWADs. It had been too long since I've had the opportunity to enjoy his scripting (the inaugural episode of his own Dome series, Avatar, was his most recent audio scriptwriting effort of which I am aware.) I hope Mr. Drew enjoyed this return performance enough to consider scripting another story sometime in the future.

The DWAD production values continue to be very high; the acting in particular was very strong, and the incidentals (music, effects, direction, etc) serve to really bring the story to life.

So for me, The Christmas Conspiracy was a mixed bag. Perhaps it wasn't quite an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle, but it was no bag of coal either; if the DWADs are planning on making their Christmas story an annual event, it will certainly become a welcome part of my Christmas celebrations.

Last updated: Thursday, January 31, 2008