Released August 2015
The Doctor and Mel land in an orbiting warehouse, an isolated and vast storage and delivery facility designed to meet all of the needs of the general populace on the planet below. Yet as the Doctor delves into the mystery behind the unchanging stock and the unpredictable computer, the mould and vermin above the station slowly reveal themselves.
Writer Mike Tucker has successfully captured the essence of the televised Seventh Doctor and Mel, though both the actors and he have tempered some of the more egregious excesses that plagued that era. With no convoluted or shadowy scheme or fears about Elder Gods or other seemingly undefeatable forces, the Doctor here is much lighter and more carefree, Sylvester McCoy initially excelling at sarcasm but able to amplify the intensity when needed as the horror of the sacrifices becomes known. Although Tucker doesn’t necessarily write Mel as the most intelligent or perceptive person, he has also captured the spirited enthusiasm of the character and puts her computer skills to excellent use, and Bonnie Langford again shines from beginning to end in the role.
An orbiting warehouse and its ability to instantly deliver anything to anyone at any time is a logical progression of the Internet-based shopping craze that has overtaken the world in the past several years, and the Doctor poignantly remarks that the days of the physical shops are inevitably numbered. It’s quite intriguing and telling that a planetary catastrophe would reduce the population to a primitive state that worships those staffing the Great Warehouse in the Sky as gods. Indeed, ‘The Warehouse’ is quite good at subverting expectations, the rats aboard the warehouse initially set up to be the villains of the piece until the logic stemming from only non-essential systems aboard the station being damaged dictates that an intelligent, external force must be involved. In a place staffed by clones, Philip Franks gives a commanding performance as the Supervisor, and the truth behind the menace ties in with the past tragedy on the planet below perfectly.
Although the situation on the planet becomes quite obvious, Dillie Keane is mesmerizing as Lydek, the High Priestess of the Catalogue. While sadly the cultures that have formed both aboard the warehouse and on the planet are not as fleshed out as might be hoped, the two distinct settings allow the story to progress in logical manner while at least temporarily putting the Doctor and Mel on opposite sides to heighten the tension. Parts of the story are certainly grounded in realism, a key part of the plot offering a clever spin on proposed online retailers’ delivery plans that made headlines a few years ago. Unfortunately, the willingness to revolt against the gods comes about a little too easily, the weight of the decision and the emotional and spiritual impact hardly mentioned or discussed.
‘The Warehouse’ follows in the footsteps of ‘Paradise Towers’ and Big Finish’s own ‘Spaceport Fear’ with a location-based concept taken to the extreme. It doesn’t necessarily do anything new and some important moments are glossed over a bit too quickly, but the superb performances and excellent sound design elevate it to something altogether more memorable, fitting in tonally with the all-too-short Seventh Doctor and Mel era perfectly.