Hothouse

Posted in Audio by - September 12, 2017
Hothouse

Released April 2009

With The Eighth Doctor Adventures boldly treading into unexplored territory in terms of setting and characterization as its third season opened up with ‘Orbis,’ ‘Hothouse’ quite explicitly reverses course and looks to the programme’s past to continue the new adventures of the reunited Eighth Doctor and Lucie Miller. As rock star turned environmental activist Alex Marlowe sets in motion a plan to save the world from climate change by any means necessary, the return of the Krynoids quickly begins to threaten all of humanity.

‘Hothouse’ directly pays homage to its Krynoid predecessor, ‘The Seeds of Doom,’ while also providing some fitting changes to avoid the common mistake of simply retelling an old story. So while beginning the story with the Doctor and Lucie already established as working for the World Ecology Bureau creates a feeling of familiarity, the shift in villainous focus from Harrison Chase’s psychopathic ways to Alex Marlowe’s sincere but misguided dedication to ecological sustainability diverges just enough to give ‘Hothouse’ an underlying relevance that strengthens the overall story by creating a very human and, in fact, noble purpose for his actions. Unfortunately, neither the script nor Nigel Planer’s performance fully creates the dynamic presence needed for this role to fully succeed, at times resulting in the character being brashly one-dimensional without the magnetic personality needed to sustain his important presence.

Still, the Krynoids offer ‘Hothouse’ a second chance at becoming something more special than anticipated, the alien foes being one of the less-explored races in Doctor Who’s long history. Though it’s not entirely surprising that the true Krynoids are essentially withheld until the climax of the story, it does seem like a missed opportunity- especially in the audio medium where budget for visuals is nonexistent- to not have them more overtly terrorizing the populace throughout the release. Despite that, writer Jonathan Morris’s decision to focus on the horror of the transformative process from human to Krynoid does certainly pay dividends even if the result doesn’t offer anything truly unexpected or revolutionary, and full plaudits must go to Lysette Anthony who gives a tremendously emotional performance as Hazel Bright agonizingly tries to retain her sense of identity and her memories as she is slowly changed to plantlike hybrid form.

One of the more fascinating aspects of this set adventures should be seeing how quickly and successfully the Doctor returns to his old lifestyle after his lengthy stay on Orbis in relative seclusion. While it initially seems as though not much has changed and that this transition will be a non-issue, it becomes quite clear that the Doctor is much more detached and aloof than is usual, especially to Lucie who practically has to beg to continue traveling with him at the end. Even his statements regarding humanity’s inherent ability to destroy itself paints a rather stark contrast to his usual enthusiasm and verve when discussing his self-proclaimed favourite species. The work Paul McGann puts in to his performance here is subtle but nonetheless impressive, and Sheridan Smith unsurprisingly continues to impress as Lucie throws herself squarely into the middle of the conflict without hesitation.

In the end, ‘Hothouse’ benefits from truly superb direction and incredibly evocative and atmospheric sound design that bring the environments and Krynoids to life spectacularly. However, it never goes anywhere unexpected and doesn’t deliver quite the impact likely intended given its rather serious tone, resulting in an enjoyable but ultimately forgettable story that looks to the past more than to the future.

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