Released July 2017
SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW
The planet Deshrah is a world of renowned natural beauty and splendour, a world so beautiful and popular that one must first park on the nearby artificial planetoid aptly named Parking before being able to teleport there. But before the Doctor, Mel, and Ace are able to complete their journey to Deshrah, they quickly become involved in the ongoing clash between the overzealous Wardens and the sect of the Free Parkers as spaceships spontaneously combust and a dark secret at the lowest level of Parking becomes known.
As the very notion of having tribes descended from lost travelers who could not find their spaceships and thus took up residence on Parking likely suggests, ‘The High Price of Parking’ is a more lighthearted story than many Seventh Doctor tales end up being, foregoing the era of the master manipulator and instead channeling the likes of ‘Paradise Towers’ by revealing a hidden danger in a skewed version of a perfectly commonplace environment in which sects of citizens rise up against the instilled and segmented bureaucratic norms where no one person holds all of the information. Much like ‘Paradise Towers,’ however, the script doesn’t quite manage to balance its rather overt comedy with the needed earnestness as it deals with its social commentary, meaning that the growing threat never manages to achieve a true sense of danger even as the leads are split and each face his or her own trials while piecing together the puzzle laid out before them all.
While the haughtiness of the Wardens and their bureaucracy is somewhat expected, the characterization of the Free Parkers is somewhat lacking, and unfortunately its members’ rather simplistic tones undercut their very admirable goal of granting Parking independent planetary status. It does obviously hint at a devolution of a society like with the Sevateem and others through Doctor Who‘s history, but it’s used for no effect here other than to create a contrasting stereotype for the posh establishment to further amplify the comedic effect. Still, the rise of a society and religion based upon the rituals of parking is suitably visual and certainly lends a needed bit of context for the length of time these people and their ancestors have been fighting to survive. However, too much comedy is derived from the premise of Parking to really allow Sepharim’s artificial intelligence to become rooted in a sense of grounded reality, and even the threat this represents is too frequently met with more levity than needed or warranted, even as it takes a rather personal turn.
To the cast’s credit, each and every member gives a strong performance, and Sylvester McCoy once again proves that he is adept at balancing humour and drama as needed. The combination of both a younger and more excitable Ace and an older and more experienced Mel than usually heard in Big Finish audios makes for an intriguing combination, and the script certainly gives Bonnie Langford plenty of opportunity to showcase the unique skillset her companion brings to the TARDIS in a way that her televised tenure never did. Nonetheless, slow pacing and an uneven tone in a story that- subjectively- veers a bit too often into campy territory and is stretched out a little too long for four episodes is an unfortunate misfire for a TARDIS team that has so far represented a strong blending of eras.