Seven Keys to Doomsday

Posted in Audio by - October 31, 2017
Seven Keys to Doomsday

Released October 2008

Though ‘The Ultimate Adventure’ proved to be a polarizing start to Big Finish’s The Stageplays range, a story composed of big set pieces that catered more to the childish whimsy of spectacle than formative substance, it nonetheless affirmed just how variable the format and tone of Doctor Who can be and provided a satisfying if straightforward nostalgic look back on a forgotten piece of the franchise’s past. The second release of the range, ‘Seven Keys to Doomsday,’ sees a newly-regenerated Doctor take his new companions to the planet of Karn in a race to collect seven crystal keys to prevent the Daleks from unleashing their true evil upon the entire universe.

Written in 1974 by Terrance Dicks, ‘Seven Keys to Doomsday’ very much captures the feel of a classic Doctor Who serial in both its writing and execution, taking its time to explore its stark alien setting without rushing from set piece to set piece. It’s this sense of inhospitable darkness that sells the danger in which the new heroes find themselves. And although the stage production likely did rely moreso on lavish set design and the spectacle of the Daleks, the monstrous clawrantulas, and the giant computer, it is undeniably the atmosphere and tone that carries the audio version. Of course, there are still occasional moments of over-expository dialogue to convey what is happening to theatre-goers, but for the most part the writing and dialogue are fluid and flow logically both within and between scenes.

With the script unaltered from its original form, there are some moments of chauvinism that bleed through, but ‘Seven Keys to Doomsday’ could serve as an effective pilot for an alternative series following Jon Pertwee’s tenure. Capturing the familial camaraderie of a brand new team, the script manages to evoke the sensibilities of the complete unknown that pervaded the original William Hartnell serials. Coincidentally or not, Trevor Martin plays his newly-regenerated Doctor as an older figure who exudes warmth, determination, and trustworthiness despite his cantankerous nature and recklessness in presenting such peril to his new companions. Indeed, as unwitting companions who quite literally spring from a stage audience and so serve as a direct connection to the viewers, Charlie Hayes as Jenny and Joe Thompson as Jimmy are superb as they come to terms with their strange surroundings and the fact that they may not survive and make it home.

It’s fitting that the Daleks receive equal billing as the Doctor in this production, and they genuinely are presented as ruthless beings showing no compassion or mercy here as they try to further their goal of universal conquest. Though the resistance component of the plot is rather clichéd without the needed detail to really distinguish the individuals involved, this does also serve as a nice counterpoint to the uncaring Daleks and manages to instill a further sense of humanity and emotion by the time the story plays out and characters’ true motivations are revealed. And so although ‘Seven Keys to Doomsday’ is a bit too straightforward and the collection of the seven keys too simple for the story to be regarded as a classic, it certainly represents a unique look into Doctor Who’s varied past and in essence becomes a missing story for that specific time period that its tone, ideas, and characterization manage to recapture excellently.

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