After the rather good release that was The Ninth Doctor Chronicles, Big Finish have released, somewhat unsurprisingly The Tenth Doctor Chronicles, four stories featuring the Tenth Doctor, played by Jake Dudman, and one of the Tenth Doctor’s companions. Today, I’ll be reviewing the first story in the set, The Taste of Death by Helen Goldwyn.
The Doctor and Rose sample the high-life on resort planet MXQ1, run by the famous Bluestone brothers. It has everything: exotic beaches, luxury accommodation and extravagant dining. Something’s cooking in the kitchen, and it’s to die for…
It’s a good idea to start this story, and by extension, this box set, by giving us a glimpse of Jake Dudman’s characterisation of the Tenth Doctor, as, within the first four words, you could easily be bamboozled. Dudman does an absolute stellar job of portraying the Tenth Doctor, and this is within the first fifteen seconds of the release. Luckily, the narration which follows (which Dudman also reads) is in Dudman’s “natural” voice, and is distinguishable enough to differentiate between the two.
We quickly learn that the Doctor has brought Rose to MXQ1 for a mini-break, and it’s obvious that this care-free excursion to paradise for the Doctor and Rose won’t last for too long. The story is called The Taste of Death, after all.
The Doctor and Rose quickly become enamoured by the amazing food that’s on display, and it appears that Rose becomes absolutely enthralled with a particular dish; a dish that every guest seems to be almost hypnotised by, every guest, bar the Doctor, is enamoured with constantly eating this particular meal. Whatever it may be.
Goldwyn’s script, especially the parts which are narration, are so brilliantly written, her descriptions are so well crafted that my mind’s eye had a field day conjuring up the scenes, which were all elevated by the brilliant sound design.
I absolutely adore the fact that, besides the facts that are spelt out to us, within the first half of the story, I’m none the wiser as to what the nefarious nature of the story is. There’s something about the food and the Bluestone Brothers, but besides that, I’m in the dark. I love being in the dark, it gives me a nice surprise, and I love being surprised.
During the second half of the story, we learn more about the Bluestone’s reign of MXQ1 as a planet. It appears that their success is due to underpaying the staff of the planet. Then there’s a word; a single word, a word that changes everything in an instant.
Once the Doctor realises who, or what, the Bluestone brothers really are, things really kick into action. The Doctor and Rose are quickly reunited, and the facade of the Bluestones comes to an end. It’s something Miss Tyler is all too familiar with, and she’s not impressed at all.
The final half of the tale becomes incredibly gruesome incredibly quickly, and I love it. It appears to be darker than the show was allowed to be in Series 2, yet the story itself feels extremely genuine to the era. The idea of a black market for food, which just so happens to be that of other species feels like something that RTD himself would have written, if given the chance. It’s a bit like Meat from Torchwood, albeit with a softer approach to the subject matter.
I have to admit, I’m surprised by the way that The Taste of Death ended, I often say that the endings in Big Finish stories are seemingly rushed, but the last ten minutes were absolutely divine. It’s not the most complex story by any means, but not every Doctor Who story needs to be. The payoff of The Taste of Death was really satisfactory, and even a teensy bit unconventional. I thought every problem in cooking could be solved with a little bit of salt… and vinegar. This time, I was happy to be proven wrong.
Overall, The Taste of Death is a great start to The Tenth Doctor Chronicles, and Jacob Dudman has to be congratulated on his performance, both as the Tenth Doctor, and as the narrator. Dudman, paired with Helen Goldwyn’s script, are a delight to the ears, and the narration especially is stellar in this release. If you loved Series 2 of Doctor Who, then I implore you to listen to this tale.
Should you want to purchase The Tenth Doctor Chronicles, it’s currently available from Big Finish here for £23 on CD or £20 for a digital download for a limited time.