Big Finish Folly, Part 79 – Urgent Calls, by Eddie Robson
Lauren is ill. She’s trying to telephone for help. Fortunately, she dials a wrong number. Yet somehow it’s also the right number. What are the odds of that, eh?
Tacked onto the previous three-parter is this little curio. Urgent Calls is one of those single-episode stories that revolves tightly around a concept and so has just enough time to state, investigate and then conclude. This time the McGuffin is a virus that has shot to Earth in 1974 and somehow spreads through the telephone network (explained away by a nifty piece of handwaving), but the actual concept is that the Doctor is never physically present. It’s been done before, you might say (in the TV episode Blink) but here the Doctor is permenantly “off-screen”, unseen at the other end of a telephone line.
The telephone serves to change the dynamic between the Doctor and Lauren with each scene. In some ways you could see this as a three-hander, with the telephone as the third character (though yes, there are more than two characters in this play, but I’m not being literal here). Paradoxically, the more the Doctor and Lauren talk, the further away from each other they are, despite Lauren’s increasing need to know more about her almost anonymous saviour – the limitations of the telephone act as a sort of Berlin Wall between them.
The concept itself is well presented, and Eddie Robson has done a good job of switching moods between this and ID, but he also reflects Lauren’s own dissatisfaction and need to know more almost too well, and the listener is left wishing that there was something more. The Doctor might well save the day, but he doesn’t always leave fulfilment behind him…