Phobos

Posted in Audio by - August 25, 2017
Phobos

Released May 2007

The Eighth Doctor Adventures opens the second half of its premiere season with Eddie Robson’s ‘Phobos’ as the TARDIS lands on the titular moon of Mars that has become the go-to destination for adrenaline junkies and extreme sports enthusiasts. The Doctor and Lucie soon find that something sinister is lurking in the shadows, the ancient meaning of Phobos becoming all the more prevalent in the process.

The basic premise behind ‘Phobos’ is Doctor Who at its strongest and most traditional as Kai disguises maintenance robots as monsters and reprograms them to scare off and kill the adrenaline junkies he so despises. However, the traditional premise also leads to a very traditional conclusion wherein those same junkies predictably become crucial to the plot resolution. By itself, there’s nothing wrong with telling a solid story that doesn’t take any real risks, but ‘Phobos’ tries to introduce a major twist towards the end that simply doesn’t hold the requisite weight to deliver a satisfying payoff. Playing off of the classic meaning behind Phobos, Robson inserts a trapped god from another dimension who feeds off of fear upon the moon. Again, the intertwining of the god’s lust for fear to grow more powerful and escape its prison along with the exhilaration and fear of the adrenaline junkies makes sense, but having the god become damaged and defeated by true fear is never adequately explained.

At the very least, this weakness does allow for the darker and more ominous side of not only the Eighth incarnation but of the Doctor as a character to come to the forefront given just how much true terror and fear he has experienced throughout his many lifetimes. But although this facet of the plot opens up a wealth of potential avenues down which this exploration could occur, the production strangely takes the rather unfulfilling and somewhat awkward route of having the Doctor picture images and feelings in his mind that the god can pick up on, leading to repeated scenes of near silence from the Doctor as his foe recoils in horror. Unfortunately, Kai, the orchestrator of so many deaths and arguably the scarier malevolent presence because of his everyman quality, is also not held responsible for his actions, receiving hardly as much as a verbal reprimanding from the Doctor. Whether because of the allotted running time or not, ‘Phobos’ simply has too many elements of its plot that are either not fleshed out well enough or given the needed consequences to give the story its intended weight.

It goes without saying that both Paul McGann and Sheridan Smith give exquisite performances that anchor a production that also features wonderful direction and sound design. However, while the guest performances are serviceable, none of them offers that spark to elevate the material to something altogether more special. With the Headhunter making yet another last-second appearance as she realises that she has missed Lucie once again, there still has yet to be any momentum associated with this lingering storyline, though obviously that is about to change as the end of the season and the truth behind Lucie’s arrival in the TARDIS approaches. As it is, ‘Phobos’ is a fairly traditional story that doesn’t quite manage to craft its big twist into something altogether engaging, leaving an impression of something that could have been altogether more satisfying with more time or a slightly different approach.

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