1963: The Space Race (2013)

After enjoying the opening story to the 50thAnniversary celebrations, I had high hopes for this middle story as it was a) a sixth doctor adventure b) it was written by Jonathan Morris and c) it was a Sixth Doctor and Peri story and they are a rarity in the main range. The last one was back in 2011 and in fact this is only sixth main range story since 1999. It starts off quite well as we get the initial set up and then when the Doctor and Peri first appear it feels like we are back on familiar territory. I like how there is a nice reference to ‘Marco Polo’ within the first five minutes.

The opening episode focuses on the landing of a capsule where Marinka has had somewhat of a memory fade. When they try and get into the capsule it does feel like the moment in ‘The Ambassadors of Death’ where they get into the capsule and find that there’s nothing inside, well the nice twist is that the Dog that the Russians sent into space (Laika) is in there instead. The plot get more bizarre when it turns out that Laika has Marinka’s voice. When I say bizarre, I mean that in a good way.

One of the things that I like about this release is how it never seems to stop for a breather. From the moment that the release starts it progresses at a nice pace. No sooner has the drama stopped to get Marinka down than the Doctor ends up going to the Moon. If you try and pin down where this is going to be heading then chances are you would be wrong and I was wrong and that its going to go somewhere different. Once I realised that the story seemed to be a dog with a human mind recruiting other dogs I couldn’t help chuckling to myself. Is this the new Reservoir Dogs?  All the humour that was generated with this thought disappeared once the story moved to the surface of the moon as the tone seemed to shift quite substantially.

The second half of the story seems to be about animals getting revenge on humans for experimenting on them and sending them into space. A sort of anti-Doctor Dolittle story was quite an amusing idea. The moment where the true spy is revealed (about an hour in) was one that I didn’t see coming. Not sure whether its cause I am stupid or just really smart by Morris but either way it worked out well.

The cliffhanger for episode three was another moment that I didn’t see coming and it ties in with the assignation of US President John F Kennedy on November 23rd 1963. It’s at this point that I decided that I enjoyed this story. The other cliffhangers were all quite good and its good that they all work because it means that the flow of the story continues even with the interruption of the intro and outro there doesn’t feel like things slow down or stumble around.

I thought that Colin Baker was on fine form (as usual) and my favourite moment came when he was trying to defend humanity and basically say that whilst humanity has its bad side, it also have a wonderful side and humans can be good. Effectively the moral message was ‘Don’t tar everyone with the same brush!’. Nicola Bryant was also very good and I would go so far as to say that its one of her best performances for quite sometime. She is productive to the story and is used in a good and interesting way.

I thought that this was a very sound release. It wasn’t what I was expecting and I certainly wasn’t expecting a moral story with humans in animals and it could have been easy for Big Finish to do a standard story about the space race and what they and Jonathan Morris have given us is something completely different. I still think that Fanfare for the Common Men is more fun but certainly this story is enjoyable from start to finish and in the celebrations to the 50th anniversary, The Space Race doesn’t let the side down


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