Doctor Who and the Star Beast

Posted in Audio by - March 19, 2019
Doctor Who and the Star Beast

Released March 2019

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

After successfully adapting the first Fourth Doctor adventure from the pages of Doctor Who Weekly to begin its first volume of The Comic Strip Adaptations, Big Finish now turns to the iconic ‘Doctor Who and the Space Beast’ in conclusion, bringing the memorable Beep the Meep to life once more and finally giving voice to Sharon Davies, the Doctor’s groundbreaking first companion of colour.

In a faithful adaptation that both long-time fans and newcomers to this story will find welcoming, Alan Barnes does well to maintain the illusion that Beep is little more than a helpless and feeble creature being relentlessly pursued across space by dangerous foes looking to ensure his race’s extinction. When local Blackcastle teenagers Sharon and Fudge find him hiding after he crashed his ship and destroyed the steel mills, his hamster-like appearance and soft cooing do little to suggest the true menace lying within. With Meep knowing silence is his ally initially as he formulates his plan and ingratiates himself with these people, it’s instead up to internal monologues to convey what the creature is truly thinking. While the sound effects to whoosh between action and thought are at times too plentiful and can create something of a disjointed experience, this setup nonetheless effectively conveys the malice and spite he so engenders, and Bethan Dixon Bate plays this dichotomy exceedingly well especially once Beep foregoes all pretenses and lets his murderous and self-centred evil out in full force.

Fortunately, Beep is not written simply as a static villain, and the revelation that his civilisation was once an idyllic and harmonious one until exposed to the radiation of a black sun does afford him a degree of empathy as he reacts to events wholly outside of his control. However, this does nothing to excuse his relentless and merciless actions that even include a willingness to turn the local population into his slaves through the radiation of his star drive before then performing a star jump that will create a black hole in its place and kill everyone in its wake. Sharon’s gradual realization of Beep’s true intent is well-paced as she tries to accept what her eyes are seeing over and over again, and the pursuing Wrarth warriors in fact being a police force looking for justice perfectly bookends Beep’s saga as the Doctor’s own curiosity leads them straight to their quarry.

The strength of the classic comic adventures is that they could create a believable picture to match the breadth of imagination that has always been a foundation for the franchise without needing to worrying about the same budgetary constraints. With ‘Doctor Who and the Space Beast,’ a simultaneously intimate and grandiose tale that even calls in the services of UNIT unfolds in engrossing fashion as Blackcastle and those within are subjected to an increasingly dangerous threat. Tom Baker again gives a strong and nuanced performance to anchor this highly visual tale within the audio medium, and Rhianne Starbuck makes an instant impact as Sharon, quickly highlighting the traits needed in a companion while falling victim to and overcoming Beep’s threat and hopefully opening the door for further adventures in this new audio range. Although subjectively some of Fudge’s comic book obsessions may skew a bit younger than the character is portrayed as here, the writing, acting, directing, and sound design all combine to create another strong blending of mediums that makes the most of the Fourth Doctor’s unique combination of earnestness and charm and conveys just why this story has endured for so long.

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