This year, before we get Series 11, I’m going back in time thanks to Big Finish, to review the Eighth Doctor Adventures, following the story of (unsurprisingly) the Eighth Doctor and Lucie Miller. Today, I’ll be reviewing Phobos by Eddie Robson.
The TARDIS lands on Phobos, moon of Mars – where extreme sports nuts of the future indulge their passion for gravity-boarding and wormhole-jumping. But there’s something lurking in the shadows, something infinitely old and infinitely dangerous. It’s not for nothing that ‘Phobos’ is the ancient word for ‘fear’…
Nothing like starting with a scream, am I right? Quickly followed by the most cliche Australian accents ever. Considering the pre-title sequence is only 85 seconds long, Eddie Robson manages to get a hell of a lot done. He introduces two characters, sets up one of the themes of the story, manages to kill off a character, and leaves you with a sense of intrigue. In 85 seconds. That’s insane. This is how you build suspense in a pre-title sequence, and it might be the most effective example of this I’ve ever heard. Not even two minutes into the story and I already have to commend Eddie Robson, well done sir.
It’s not long before the Doctor and Lucie joins the action, arriving on Phobos, one of Mars’ two moons. (The other being Deimos, which is actually the title of another Eighth Doctor Adventure in it’s fourth and final series, so expect that review in the future.) It appears that Phobos has become the destination for adrenaline junkies to hang out. There’s an environment dome that’s been purposefully built for thrill seekers (imagine a kickass Eden Project (if you don’t know what the Eden Project is, google it, it’s incredible)) which has a “wormhole” at it’s summit.
During the first act of the story, there’s a great juxtaposition between the A-plot featuring the Doctor and Lucie and the B-Plot featuring the characters Kai and Eris. The Doctor and Lucie are exploring the adrenaline fuelled aspect of Phobos, whereas Kai and Eris spend the act concerned about the legends of the moon, with all the strange goings on.
At the beginning of the second act, the Doctor and Lucie get involved with a solving a mysterious murder alongside Kai and Eris. There’s another couple on Phobos called Amy and Farl who are seemingly out of place on the moon, and nobody seems to trust them completely…
Considering it’s quite a bleak and morbid story for the most part, there’s a beautiful little scene between Amy and Lucie where they’re able to talk about relationships, forbidden love and Lucie gets to see Mars up close in all it’s glory. Considering Lucie has been on Red Rocket Rising, which was a planet in distress, a motorway service station and an incredibly Earth like planet, this is the first time she really has the chance to relish in the beauty of the universe. Having these little moments for the companions make all the crap they have to deal with seem worth it.
The plot thickens as other parts of Phobos, not shielded by the environment dome, seems to have a tiny bit of an atmosphere. An atmosphere it didn’t used to have. What’s more, Lucie is on the run from a Martian monster that’s seemingly wanting to kill Lucie. A proper little bit of an action scene with high stakes, especially considering Lucie has never been in this type of pickle before.
I have to once again praise Eddie Robson and his script for giving the Eighth Doctor one of the best ever mini-monologues he’s ever had in this story. Farl attempts to threaten the Doctor, and the Doctor gives him just as much back by talking about all he’s done and seen throughout his lives. McGann’s performance too should be praised in this, as it really felt like one of the rare defining moments that each Doctor gets.
The final act has a fair few surprise twists and turns, and the Doctor and Lucie’s fate goes from bad to worse seemingly in the blink of an eye. There’s a few nice revelations about the supporting cast too, and I must admit, it’s really engaging to listen to.
I know I don’t talk about it anywhere near as much as I should, but the music in Phobos is absolutely stunning, especially in the last ten minutes when it becomes eerily choral and cinematic. I wish I could credit the individual who composed it, but on the Big Finish website, it just says the music is provided by ERS. So ERS, well done. You’ve done a phenomenal job.
There’s a brief moment near the end of Phobos that appears to be foreshadowing the future, where Lucie finally realises that the Doctor might be a darker and more sinister character than he appears… I love it when a companion realises that they probably shouldn’t fully trust the Doctor.
Overall, Phobos is easily my favourite Eighth Doctor Adventures story (so far! I am only five episodes in.) It’s like The Hounds of Baskerville but on a Martian moon with some uniquely Doctor Who elements thrown in for good measure. Eddie Robson’s script is sublime, and Paul McGann really get’s to flex his acting muscles playing the Doctor in this. If you’re a fan of the Eighth Doctor, or you’re looking for a place to start; I would be a fool if I didn’t recommend Phobos.
Should you want to purchase Phobos, it’s currently available from Big Finish here for £8.99 for the download, or £10.99 for the CD.