Big Finish Folly, Part 62 – The Song of Megaptera, by Pat Mills
One of the wonders of the universe: gigantic space-faring whales, capable of passing through the Event Horizon. But where there’s a wonder, there’s a predator – and in this case there’s more than one… the whaling ship Orcus, itself a two-mile long behemoth, is after one last catch, and the stowaway Caller wants the whale’s timecore for its own purposes. The Doctor and Peri will need more than just a Greenpeace membership to get everybody to safety this time…Here’s an interesting one. Song of Megaptera was originally intended as a Tom Baker story, it got diddled about during the Davison era, and finally never got made as a Colin Baker tale. Pat Mills has had his hand on the tiller all the way through the last thirty or so years, and so while this counts as a Lost Story it certainly doesn’t feel at all dated. In fact the TV Who has gone with space whales in the last few years, with the plot also turning on environmental/ecological themes.
Paced through four episodes, the story nevertheless retains a two-act structure. The first half is set aboard the Orcus, as the Doctor discovers exactly what is making the crew tick (and the Caller lurks in the background), while the second half goes straight for the belly of the beast, suddenly making this more than just a simple anti-whaling script. The idea of being kept eternally young by the flaring of the whale’s timecore is a fun one, and the cast go to town in creating “The Framily” of castaways who live beneath the whale’s lungs. Centuries of isolation have left them creepy and off-kilter, and episode 3 is more of a laugh-aloud affair despite the whale’s peril. The comedy guards meanwhile remind the listener that Who was always intended to be a family-friendly show, with lighter elements as well as dark. There’s a fine line to tread between laughter and heartless vivisection, and the script stays on just the right side of it.
The cast and characters are well-judged too, with only the ship’s computer coming across as far too over the top for my liking. Everybody is doubling up, but it is difficult to tell (and to be honest, who cares?) when the story is this much fun. Ultimately however, while this is definitely a good story, it just lacks enough pizzazz to warrant a full five-star rating.
¹Yeah, I know. Bad joke. See if I care. 🙂