Released May 2007
Paul Sutton returns to Big Finish after offering the stellar stories ‘Arrangements for War’ and ‘Thicker Than Water’ with ‘Exotron.’ This is the second straight release that Big Finish has employed the three-plus-one format, and while ‘Exotron’ does little to leave a memorable and lasting impact, it certainly checks all of the requisite boxes to make up a nonetheless enjoyable tale.
‘Exotron’ is one of the few stories to mention Peri’s botany background as, on a distant Earth colonial outpost, the story opens with her excitedly carrying back several species of local plant life that she has never seen previously. Along the way, she and the Doctor find a group of workers trying to install a pylon of sorts, a pylon that attracts the menacing hyena-like Farakosh and in turn, the security robot Exotron. The Exotron ignores the wounded workers and Peri, leaving them under threat from the Farakosh, instead taking the Doctor back to the compound where he discovers that he seems able to connect with it mentally.
As with the previous three-part story ‘I.D.’ the truncated nature seems to act as a detriment, rushing everything along so that the aspects that warrant further exploration end up feeling underdeveloped. This is most notable in the secondary storylines including the apparent love triangle between John Duttine’s Exotron creator Major Taylor, Isla Blair’s scientist Paula Taylor, and Richard Earl’s Christian, as well as the search into figuring out why the Farakosh are so aggressive. However, the rushed nature certainly does affect the main narrative as well, both the Doctor trying to figure out Exotron’s hidden secret and Peri trying to survive and communicate with the Farakosh. Even Nick Brimble’s Ballentyne, the ultimate villain of the piece, gets little build up and then simply leaves without any real consequences at the end. With no time available to further explore the characters and motivations, the resolutions of the multiple issues don’t deliver the intended impact no matter how clever they may be.
Peter Davison and Nicola Bryant both do the best that they can with the script, but it does little to distinguish their characters or to offer them anything truly meaningful to do. They jest with each other like good friends and the Doctor is perfectly willing to do whatever he can to help those hurt by Exotron no matter the cost as he discovers the truth behind Taylor’s experiments, but there’s sadly not a shining moment for either that will really last in the listeners’ mind. In the end, ‘Exotron’ is simply an average story that suffers from cliches and rushed pacing, a decent enough distraction but not one of Big Finish’s finest by any means.
‘Urban Myths’ is the one-part accompaniment to ‘Exotron’ and features the intriguing concept of three Celestial Intervention Agency Time Lords recounting differing events regarding how the Doctor was involved in the destruction of an inhabited planet. The three distinct stories could have used a little bit more time for each to fully come into its own, but the setup does allow for Davison and Bryant to put three wholly unique spins on their characters. There is no intent to make ‘Urban Myths’ a groundbreaking story, and, as such, it’s perfectly suited for its accompanying role and actually ends up outshining its lengthier counterpart.