Exotron, by Paul Sutton
The Doctor and Peri are examining local flora on what appears to be a deserted world when, along with a team of colonist technicians they suddenly run into, they are attacked by the Farakosh, beasts that seem to be wolf-analogues. Only the intervention of the colony’s security robots, the heavily-armed Exotrons, saves the day. But there’s more to both the Farakosh and the Exotrons than meets the eye, and the colony’s supervising Major has a secret up his sleeve that threatens the lives of everyone on this world…
Every so often Big Finish vary the presentation of their plays. Just like Time Reef and A Perfect World, a few dozen miles back, this is a coupling of a three-episode story alongside a single-act tale. The obvious advantage to this is that there’s two stories for the price of one. Another, less obvious, advantage is that there’s no fat on these tales. Compressed as they are, by neccessity they become faster, leaner and, especially in this case, more of a rollercoaster ride. By the end of the second episode, the colony is at all-out war with the Farakosh, as the Doctor desperately tries to get both sides communicating with each other. Despite the cast only numbering half a dozen in total, the bodycount is massive.
The introduction of a slimeball Minister from Earth, here to pick up the prize he has invested so heavily in, is almost unneccessary given how much the situation has deteriorated by this point. The revelations meanwhile, about the true nature of the Exotrons and their control system, and about the way in which the Farakosh communicate with each other, all of which might have been better hidden and drip-fed in a longer play, are here quite obvious from early on – and in some respects that only compounds the tragedies still to come.
Lean and whippet-like, Exotron is a complete contrast to Red Dawn before it, and that can only be a good thing.
Urban Myths, by Paul Sutton
Of course, where there’s a three-episode story, there’s a one-act play to follow, and here’s the yang to Exotron’s yin. Here, a trio of gourmets from the Celestial Intervention Agency are planning the Doctor’s death while waiting for a rather familiar – to us, anyway – waitress to turn up with the consomme and pomme frites. It seems that the Doctor has, on a visit to one particular planet, managed to engineer a spectacular genocide and must now be stopped. The truth however is not so clear cut…
If some plays have trouble telling a single story in four episodes, then Urban Myths does very well in telling the same story three times over in a single episode. Again there is no waffle or wiffle – after all this is a tale with a very specific brief. For me there appear to be two directions you can go with a single-episode tale: straight bat and serious, or else ham it up and go for laughs. Like A Perfect World, this one falls onto the funny side of the fence, though it’s a close thing. The prospect of planet-wide genocide is hardly a barrel of laughs, but imagining the Doctor charge through the streets Arnie-style, chain-gun roaring, can’t help but bring a smile to the lips.
Urban Myths is a light pastry compared to heavier items in the Big Finish menu, but at least it doesn’t aspire to be anything more than it actually is.