Subterranea Review

We’ve had an ape with the Fourth Doctor in Dethras, and now it seems like the Doctor and Romana might be meeting with a mole if the cover is anything to go by. But what will this story have in store? There’s only one way to find out…

Synopsis
The TARDIS is going underground. When the Doctor and Romana find themselves buried beneath the surface of an alien world, they’re soon swallowed up by a giant burrowing machine. This is where the inhabitants of this planet live – in huge, constantly moving, Drill-towns, chewing up the fuel and resources of the planet in order to survive.
But something else lurks in the earth. Something that feeds on the Drill-towns. Something that is relentless and will not stop.
The Silex are hunting.

Review
Doctor Who never shies away from war does it? The military drums that open Subterranea throws us right into the futility of war. A war, it seems, against the Silex. The unrelenting Silex. The unstoppable Silex. The Silex are a truly formidable foe; and I’ve heard about them for less than ninety seconds.

Once the Doctor and Romana leave the TARDIS underground (no K-9 this month), we learn a bit about the welding-goggle wearing moles that are on the cover, but the lesson is rather fleeting.

Like the rest of the Fourth Doctor series from Big Finish this year; it’s not too long before the Doctor and Romana are separated, allowing for an A-plot and a B-plot. Whilst I have nothing against this method of storytelling, as it allows two plot points to run simultaneously, I can’t help but think it’s become somewhat of a trope. Now, I’m not Big Finish writer (yet), but I wish someone could come up with a different idea as to how to have these two plots run in parallel, as it does seem to be a bit run of the mill.

The concept of a civilisation living underground is really interesting; especially in moving Drill-towns; in my mind I was thinking of a slightly apocalyptic The Wind In The Willows, with a smidgen of steampunk; it’s a concept that only Doctor Who could attempt to do justice.

When we learn about the history that led up to this civilisation being forced underground, I must confess that I was reminded of The Doctor’s Daughter, mixed with The Daleks. What a great mix.

The conclusion to the first episode is rather good when compared to the other cliffhangers in this series of Fourth Doctor adventures, there’s depict, death and deals. Just what a cliffhanger should have.

Considering that the Silex were written about in such a way that I thought they were going to be a terrifyingly formidable force, I have to admit that the way they’re written in the opening scenes of the second episode makes them seem less devilish. Strangely, immediately after, we get a nice exposition dump on what the Silex actually are, where they came from and why they’re here, and they become great again. Even if their origin is very similar to one of the Doctor’s greatest enemies.

The latter half of the second episode feels a lot like a typical Doctor Who revolution; with the Doctor at the forefront. Whilst it’s nothing revolutionary in itself, it is very familiar and works rather well in regards to the narrative. The only problem with it, and it’s the same for any story that features an uprising, is that if you know Doctor Who, you already know the outcome. That’s the only problem with Big Finish stories that feature exclusively original TV casts, there’s no real sense of jeopardy for the main characters, which is a shame.

The conclusion of Subterranea is very run of the mill, there’s departing speeches and updates on the supporting cast. There’s an awful joke and everyone ends up laughing; it really felt like a 90’s sitcom to me.

Overall, Subterranea is a very safe release from Jonathan Morris; it doesn’t break any new ground, but it feels right at home in the Fourth Doctor’s era. If you’re wanting something of a challenge or a story that’s more experimental, then this is not for you. If you crave a lazy Saturday afternoon in your chair, able to have an adventure with the Doctor without too much mental work, then you may just have a new addition to add to your list. Unfortunately, the only aspect of the story that really piqued my interest, the Silex, were too familiar to another one of Doctor Who’s greatest foes, which detracted their charm for me, which is a real shame.

Rating

68%

Should you want to purchase Subterranea, it’s currently available from Big Finish for £10.99 on CD or a £8.99 download which you can purchase here.

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