Released August 2002
‘…ish’ is an intriguing release for Big Finish, reuniting Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant as the Sixth Doctor and Peri for the first time since ‘Whispers of Terror.’ Like in that story, the Doctor is drawn into a murder mystery of sorts in which sound or language itself is sentient in a sense and crucial to the plot; however, new writer Phil Pascoe twists the central concept of turning sound into a villain and instead focuses on his love for the English language and just how much detail goes into language, grammar, and the art of conversation.
Set at a linguistic conference with the purpose of presenting the most complete dictionary in the universe, language is the underlying theme and is explored to its fullest. The breadth and distinctiveness of words used and the subtlety and elaborate nature of sentence structure ensure that the importance of language is never far from the forefront of events. Herein enters Book, the representation of language to its fullest extent, the artificial intelligence behind the Lexicon dictionary who is striving to define every possible word and every possible connotation and derivative, a goal that brings about the key struggle of ‘…ish.’
The pacing of the first couple of episodes is rather relaxed compared to the later two, though the buildup of the threat as the events reach the climax is superb. While the beginning of the story focuses on clever wordplay and the more intriguing aspects of language, the very subtle but gradual loss of vocabulary and language is inserted into the script fantastically.
‘…ish’ features very strong performances from both Baker and Bryant. Colin Baker’s is certainly a very eloquent and outspoken Doctor, and so his casting here is a natural fit. And despite the fact that the his role as an investigator into the murder of Professor Osefa as well as the murder’s ramifications doesn’t afford him much new territory to explore, he still commands every scene he is in, relishing each sentence and proving more than capable of handling the finer intricacies and trickier intonations of the English language. As Peri, Nicola Bryant has firmly recaptured everything that her character was on television. Fortunately the bickering that plagued her relationship with the Sixth Doctor on television has been toned down significantly, and the genuine friendship between the two on display here underscores what a great duo the two could have given the opportunity.
Given the smaller and more intimate nature of the story, ‘…ish’ features a much smaller cast than is usual for a Big Finish production. This is not a detriment to the story, though, as it affords a greater exploration of the leads as well as the principal guest stars. Although the full potential of Moray Treadwell’s Book’s threat is never fully realized and Marie Collett’s Professor Osefa remains more of a peripheral character despite the clever means of continuing to involve her in the progression of events, both are still fascinating characters. It’s undoubtedly Chris Eley’s Warren who becomes the most intriguing character, though, and his belief that collecting words into the Lexicon is an extremely dangerous proposition is an interesting concept that is afforded exploration and presented well throughout the script.
There have been many attempts to create stories that would only succeed in the audio medium, and ‘…ish’ is certainly one of the more successful attempts. With the focus solely on the dialogue, the music is not as pronounced as in other releases; still, the clever core concept and twisting of plot conventions and expectations as well as the exploration of language especially pertaining to the Doctor and Peri, make this a very unique and worthwhile release.