The Game (2005)

The Game is the second story of 2005 and is the first to have the Fifth Doctor & Nyssa combination in just less than two years (May 2003 in Creatures of Beauty). This story is written by Darin Henry who has written episodes of Seinfeld and Futurama. Henry is making his first contribution to the main Doctor Who range and hopefully it won’t be his last. The story is different to most Who stories in that there are six episodes instead of the standard four. I am not quite sure what the reason for it being, the result of the increase in episodes is that the duration is shorter which also means that the cliffhangers come more quickly. I read somewhere that this story was intended to be a Sixth Doctor/Evelyn story but got changed for some reason (probably scheduling).

The story sees the return of William Russell to the Doctor Who world. Russell played Ian Chesterton and travelled with the First Doctor between 1963 and 1965. In this story he plays Lord Carlisle who is a peace negotiator who has an admirer in the form of the Doctor. The basic point of the story is centred around a game called Naxi which is essentially two gangs who beat the living hell out of each other. With the sound effects and the dialogue we get the feeling that this is a truly brutal game and perhaps is barbaric. At several points in the early part of the story we have the matches which are short but very intense. There is commentary from Jonathan Pearce who provides commentary for the BBC Match of the Day programme and you get the feeling during points of this story that you are listening to the radio. Pearce is very enthusiastic throughout and that helps add to the entertainment factor.

The way that Lord Carlisle was written was that he was meant to be this great man who would go to troubled situations and sort things out. That is why the Doctor was such an admirer obviously because the Doctor can’t sort things out without people close to him dying. Throughout the early part of this story is that there is something not quite right about Carlisle. It’s not clear exactly what that problem is but then learn that Lord Carlisle doesn’t solve the problems but in fact it is the Doctor. There is also another question that needs answering and it’s raised by the Doctor. It is a different way of using time travel in that the Doctor is the one that has been sorting the peace problems out yet it is Carlisle getting the credit and the Doctor doesn’t know why. There is a little bit of sadness with my enjoyment of Carlisle when Nyssa finds out some of Carlisle’s notes which show how the fighting can be extended not finished. Nyssa starts out being a bit sceptical of the Doctor’s admiration of Carlisle however quite quickly it is Nyssa who becomes attached and makes it clear she would like to stay with Carlisle but we all know that she leaves in Terminus so any mention of departing from the Doctor is meaningless and just wastes time.

Peter Davison is very good in this story. At the beginning he is the fan looking forward to meeting his hero. It’s a scenario that many Doctor Who fans have been in when they go to a Sci-Fi convention and they know their favourite Doctor is going to be there. We have all been there and it’s a nice feeling to have. He is very good throughout this story and once he realises that it is he who solves the problems and not Carlisle we see the normal Doctor that he plays so well. It is so good to have Sarah Sutton back. As Nyssa I think that she is one of the best companions in Doctor Who history because she is smart but not too smart and doesn’t scream like a stereotypical female companion would. William Russell is superb in this story as Lord Darzil Carlisle. He is an enjoyable character who becomes even more likeable when we discover that he is actually a fraud and is a fan of the Doctor’s. Russell’s voice really suits radio and hopefully he does more in the future. It’s good that he played someone who wasn’t Ian Chesterton because it meant the Russell could play someone different that would test him. Christopher Ellison is another notable name. He appeared in such shows as The Bill and in this he plays Morian who is a gangster and that suits what he played in the Bill. Jonathan Pearce who as mentioned is a Football commentator is enjoyable as Garny Diblick who sounds like he could be one of you friends talking about football. Ursula Burton was very good as Ambassador Faye Davis who is Carlisle’s assistant. She is very aware of Carlisle job and doesn’t look to kindly to strangers who distract him. Robert Curbishley plays Ockle Dirr very well and has a nice voice for radio.

Other characters that performed well in this story include Gregory Donaldon who plays Coach Bela Destry who asks Carlisle to come to sort the problems out thus being a nice character in my eyes. Andrew Lothian plays Hollis Az and does a good job. Dickon Tolson also does well as Coach Sharz Sevix which is the leader of the other team and helped with the tension between the two teams.

Darin Henry has written a superb story. There is a lot going on for six episodes and all the characters are well structured and are totally engaging. I particularly like the Jonathan Pearce character and think that the setting is just right. Gary Russell has taken a brave approach in recent releases with new writers and he has helped their inexperience by directing them and perhaps getting them back to a listenable story. With The Game there is no need for him to direct it like he has done as the story tells itself. He manages to get the right pace as with a short run time in each episode he cant afford to waste time with meaningless scenes and this helps the enjoyment.


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