So, here it is. It’s the start of something huge. Yes, Big Finish has had the rights to New-Who stuff for a while; but I’m sure that this is the series that a lot of people have been waiting for. The Tenth Doctor is on Big Finish! Now, I know that this will be the jumping on point for a lot of people getting into Doctor Who related audio; but will the first release in this series, Technophobia, have been worth the wait?
When the Doctor and Donna visit London’s Technology Museum for a glimpse into the future, things don’t go to plan.
The most brilliant IT brain in the country can’t use her computer. More worrying, the exhibits are attacking the visitors, while outside, people seem to be losing control of the technology that runs their lives.
Is it all down to simple human stupidity, or is something more sinister going on?
Beneath the streets, the Koggnossenti are waiting. For all of London to fall prey to technophobia…
This is all very exciting isn’t it? If you’d’ve told me a year ago that I’d be sat at my desk writing a review for a Tenth Doctor adventure from Big Finish, I would have found it very difficult to believe; but here I am. Typing these words right now. This review. Wow. The first of three stories released today, Technophobia has the job of reintroducing the Tenth Doctor and Donna Noble back into our ears after not seeing (or hearing) them together in eight years; where has the time gone? In a way, that means that Technophobia should really be in the same role as Partners In Crime, and I have to say that tonally, they do feel similar.
The pre-title sequence (yes, like the show itself, the Big Finish Tenth Doctor releases have pre-title sequences) introduces us to Jill Meadow, CEO of Meadow Digital, the company behind the famous mPad (yes, this all seems very familiar). Strangely though, Jill suddenly loses the capability to use her mPad; this reminds me so much of having to teach my parents and grandparents how to use their iPads and smartphones. It’s so infuriating. Luckily, the Doctor and Donna are visiting the Technology Museum where Jill Meadow was supposed to be giving her conference call. Talk about luck. It’s not long before Donna makes a new friend in Bex, (with an ‘x’, like Lynda with a ‘y’) who, like Donna, is a temp.
With the Doctor’s entrance, we get quite possibly the best Tenth Doctor line ever, who’d have thought that the Doctor obsessing over sparkly dongles would be so amusing?
Big Finish also decided to stick with the Series 4 theme music; a decision that reminded me just how much I bloody love that theme; arguably it’s the best of the modern era. I was having flashbacks of being 12 years old and watching the Tenth Doctor and Donna together properly for the first time; ah, those were the days.
It seems all isn’t well (what a shock) and that people are becoming less and less able to use the technology they’ve been using for years; and the technology seems to be fighting them. The Doctor saves a man called Brian from a rogue artistic robot which seemingly went haywire. If you’re like me and are the technological expert in your family, listening to this attack will no doubt bring up some memories of a family member trying to do something semi-complicated with technology all by themselves and it failing miserably.
We learn that the story takes place in 2010, two years into Donna’s future and she’s baffled by the fact that all the films are seemingly in 3D, like myself, Donna was even more baffled that there’s a Justin Bieber film in 3D. (Although, after doing my research, it turns out that Justin Bieber’s film, Never Say Never, wasn’t released until 2011, unless it’s using UNIT dating.)
One thing I really enjoyed whilst listening to Technophobia is the way that the Koggnossenti were revealed; it wasn’t a big occasion filled with exposition about their plan and how they can be stopped, instead, in true RTD era fashion; the reveal was teased throughout the episode. The first we learn of them is just their name, which doesn’t really answer many questions. Well it answers “Who are you?” I suppose.
Matt Fitton, writer of Technophobia, manages to pace the paranoia perfectly in this story; like the reveal of the Koggnossenti, it doesn’t happen all at once. It would have been easy for the story to start amidst mass hysteria and have the Doctor and Donna get to the bottom of it; but instead there’s this sense of paranoia brewing, slowly reaching the boiling point and ready to explode. Fitton also manages to make me scared of lifts so thanks for that.
One thing that characterised Series 4 for me was the notion of people running out into the street scared; it happened in Partners In Crime, it happened in The Sontaran Stratagem, it happened a lot in Turn Left and it happened in The Stolen Earth; it also happens in Technophobia, meaning that it doesn’t feel at all out of place. People are petrified of anything technological, whether it was a PIN machine or a radio, and the idea that it could happen is terrifying. I love my laptop.
I know that my mum doesn’t listen to Big Finish (she’s not much of a Whovian, but she tries to enjoy it for me, for which I am eternally grateful) but there’s a tiny scene in here that I know she’ll be able to relate to. Lukas, a cleaner, becomes freaked out by the sight of a vacuum cleaner. Much like I do. You see mum? I have a very precise case of Technophobia which is limited to cleaning instruments. I can’t help it.
As someone who has only visited London a few times in my life, I can totally relate to Donna and Bex’s feeling of unease when they try and go on the London Underground. Now, don’t get me wrong, I think that in my time in London I’ve managed to do fairly well on the Underground, I’ve never got lost or missed my stop, but I can understand why a lot of people aren’t too fond of the idea.
Once we’re introduced to the hunk that is Kevin, you can’t help but love him with his little Irish accent and his huge, bulging biceps. Obviously Donna takes a shine to him, and it’s a good job that he agreed to help the Doctor and Donna really, he’s the Thor in their Avengers. No, not the Big Finish Avengers, the other one, the lesser known one by Marvel.
The Koggnossenti are brilliantly portrayed; when they’re finally fully revealed, they sound extremely sinister and scientific. For some reason scientific and sinister seem to go hand in hand in Doctor Who. You don’t get many sinister morons. Well you do, and I jokingly suggested that he should become the Twelfth Doctor’s next companion.
Like in Series 4, Matt Fitton writes Donna superbly, making her more ingenious and incredible that she could ever believe. The fact that Donna is a character who doesn’t have much self confidence and hides it under the cover or sarcasm and wit makes her character so much more human than the superhero companions we’ve had of late. In fact, in Technophobia, Donna is arguably the person with the best ideas. Even better than the Doctor’s plans. Wilf would be proud.
The conclusion of Technophobia is rather strong, and feels very Series 4-esque. The Doctor doesn’t use violence or anger, instead he uses his intellect and his gob to save the day.
The music that accompanies Technophobia, provided by Howard Carter, is genius. It’s in no way the orchestral sound that Murray Gold would have knocked up during this era I admit, it’s a lot more Classic Who with synthesisers and digital sounds, but it fits the theme of technology down to the ground. For me, the underlying, unrelenting music made Technophobia much more sinister sounding. It’s almost like I became technophobic just through listening to the music. Well done Howard Carter.
Overall, Technophobia is a great introduction to the Tenth Doctor and Donna Noble on Big Finish; it’s a mix of what the televised series did so brilliantly and the award-winning Big Finish formula. If Time Reaver and Death and The Queen are anywhere near as good as this; we have something extremely special in our ears.
Should you want to purchase Technophobia, it’s currently available as a single release from Big Finish for £10.99 on CD or an £8.99 download which you can purchase here.
Alternatively, you could buy The Tenth Doctor Adventures Limited Edition Box Set featuring all three stories for £30.00 on CD or £25 on download which you can purchase here.