Prison in Space

Posted in Audio by - June 30, 2017
Prison in Space

Released December 2010

Following a very successful revisitation of the William Hartnell era in The First Doctor Box Set, Big Finish forges into the Patrick Troughton era with its next entry in The Lost Stories range. The Second Doctor Box Set opens with ‘Prison in Space,’ originally written by Dick Sharples and adapted for audio by Simon Guerrier, where a holiday for the Doctor, Jamie, and Zoe goes wrong as they quickly find themselves arrested for trespassing in asociety under the control of the malevolent Chairman Babs and her World Federation of Womanhood.

‘Prison in Space’ is inevitably going to be a divisive story, for under the guise of comedy and science fiction is a biting resentment of feminism and everything the movement can achieve. Presented is a civilization in which women have risen up and defeated the men who for so long oppressed them, the men being imprisoned to a life of indentured servitude as penance. The issue with any sort of gender role inversion- and this plagued ‘Mission to Magnus’ earlier in The Lost Stories range to a lesser extent- is that the authors frequently take the worst aspects of the original gender’s regime and control and amplify those for the new ruling gender. Thus, the women in control of this society are completely dictatorial and single-minded with no true regard for the men now beneath them. While this still could potentially lead to an intriguing story about the struggle that women face in modern society as they strive to become equals, but the tone of the story is one of derision, and the form-fitting uniforms as well as the insensitively-named Chairman Babs’s firm control being undermined by her clear desire for a strong man such as the Doctor to join and even control her do nothing to help the cause. Of course, the script further hurts itself by judging its female characters based on appearance and rather stereotypical actions, and Babs’s constant descriptions as being less than attractive are quite overt in their connection to her evilness.

Still, the majority of this tale of uprising against a regime of oppression holds fairly decent drama as the Doctor and Jamie are incarcerated and Zoe is brainwashed to join the other side which has banned wars and made man’s generic role as provider obsolete. None of it is necessarily groundbreaking, but the four parts do pass at a steady pace thanks to strong linking narration from Frazer Hines and Wendy Padbury. Unfortunately, that pacing rather grounds to a halt at the conclusion in which Jamie, facing a Zoe who is cannot break her brainwashing, forcibly holds her down and surprisingly violently spanks her until she returns to her normal self. There is absolutely no comedic tone written on top of this action, and Zoe explicitly cries from the experience after screaming for it to stop. The Doctor tries to pass it off as Jamie being from a less civilised time period, but there is no excuse for a protagonist and such a beloved character to be written like this. In a story full of sexist moments, this is the most egregious and leaves a terribly poor taste regarding the entire affair.

There are any number of reasons that any particular story or idea does not make it to screen, but ‘Prison in Space’ is one best left completely forgotten. As marvellous as Frazer Hines is as Jamie while switching effortlessly to his uncanny impersonation of Patrick Troughton, this is a horribly misguided story tonally that takes all of the positive aspects of the feminist movement and completely tears them apart by presenting women with the very worst aspects of the men they usurped to heightened extremes while also suggesting that they still desire and need those same men to rule them.

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