The Paradise of Death and The Ghosts of N-Space

Two 1990s audio plays here, both by long-time BBC producer Barry Letts, both starring Jon Pertwee as the Third Doctor (18 years after he had stopped playing the TV role) with Elisabeth Sladen and as Sarah Jane Smith and Nicholas Courtney as the Brigadier.

The Paradise of Death, made in 1993, has a lot of promising elements – an alien infiltration of a London space-themed funfair, nasty kidnapper of Sarah, alien planet’s president who may or may not fully know what is going on, rebel anti-technological faction of the alien planet. Unfortunately these are all jumbled together without any real consistency of tone – one minute Sarah is in danger of a fate worse than death, the next she is happily playing virtual reality games; there is no really satisfying resolution. There are some desperately silly bits as well; apparently the Doctor can survive a long fall by softening all the bones in his body; Sarah has a deeply annoying twittish sidekick called Jeremy, and does a lot of girly sobbing. The Paradise of Death is actually less than the sum of its parts, and some of those parts are not very good.

The Ghosts of N-Space is a bit better. The Brigadier, rather implausibly, turns out to have an aged Italian relative, and the irritating Jeremy returns; but we have one of Barry Letts’ explorations of his favourite theme, the afterlife and relations between the physical and spiritual worlds. Of course, there is no continuity at all with other explorations of this theme in Doctor Who (even those written by Letts himself), but Doctor Who is entertainment, not theology. Tying the plot to a single place (the Briagdeier’s uncle’s castle) at different times in history makes for an interesting exploration of the historical cycle. And Sandra Dickinson has a small part as a gangster’s moll who sounds like she is orgasmed to death. Much more fun.

Anyway, good to hear the voice of Pertwee in his last performances in the role, and the other two leads seem to be having fun too – the Brigadier actually gets to lead a military operation in both stories. Shame about Jeremy.

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