Big Finish Folly, Part 75 – The Ratings War, by Steve Lyons
It’s the reality show of the century! Two brainless young things compete in a pointless contest to find out which is more popular! Absolutely everyone is watching it, dahling! Subliminal messages? Clarion calls to mass destruction? Nope, none of them ’round here. Just this lovely cute & furry little fella, name of Beep…
Makes sense that if we’re digging into the comics for Frobisher we also get one of the Fourth Doctor’s more memorable enemies too. Beep the Meep featured in The Star Beast, waaaay back when I was but an impressionable young chiddler. With a script by 2000AD’s Pat Mills and John Wagner, and art by Dave Gibbons, the comic featured black radiation, alien warriors, a grim Northern town, and a foe that would tear the Gremlins to furry pieces. Absolute joy.
The Ratings War was originally given away free with DWM a whole 22 years after The Star Beast first hit the news-stands. Ten years after that, it sounds… well, rather dated, to be honest. The TV show Audience Shares, with which Beep has ensnared the human population, is not a patch on any of the inane pap Simon Cowell is capable of inflicting on us these days (I wonder… is he a foul flesh-eating alien hell-bent on destruction?), and childrens’ TV scheduling gives us far worse on a daily basis than Beep and Friends.
Worse, Toby Longworth’s portrayal of Beep does not do the Most High justice. He comes over as being all too ineffectual, where the menace of the Star Beast made him thrillingly unpredictable. The story leaves the Doctor and Beep facing off in a single room for much of the running time, trumping each other with “Aha, but I’ve already done this!” and I reckon the Meep deserves much better than that.
There are a few good knowing digs at the BBC’s poor treatment of the Who TV series in the final few minutes, especially when it transpires that Beep and Friends has been put on hiatus for 18 months… but that doesn’t rescue what ends up as a throwaway half-hour.