I'll be honest, this one has been sitting on my shelf for over a year and the only reason I got round to it was because there's a sequel in Jago & Litefoot I want to understand. I'm wary of parodies these days since they seem to swing too often towards the mean-spirited but this was a great story of a particular sort Big Finish haven't put out before.
It has to be said first, lest I seem ungrateful, that given the limited resources they're working with Big Finish have done a fantastic job just to create Third Doctor audios. A majority of the era's principal cast have passed on, some of them years before Big Finish even started. They've made some corkers, as well: The Last Post and Find And Replace are amongst my favourite Doctor Who audios of all time.
There has been something missing, though. They've done great UNIT action, a cool Peladon story and some seriously good revisionist takes on the era but what they hadn't done until now was a properly balls-to-the-wall insane, new idea every five minutes Bob Baker and Dave Martin style story.
That's all fixed now as James Goss serves up a story about Jo Grant being captured by genocidal puppets from outer space. Its the closest I've seen Big Finish come to those insanely over-the-top Baker and Martin stories like The Mutants or The Claws Of Axos. It actually manages to be as colourful as Claws thanks to some excellent cover art. Guest star Mervyn Hayes even managed to gets the cadence of his speech just right to sound like it fits the around the exaggerated facial movements of a Muppet. He plays all the puppets, except Amble the Fairly Ugly Doll who's voiced by Katy Manning (and there may be no better “Jo Grant” moment than where Jo stands up for Amble's body image, its just perfect).
Back to the parody thing: I love The Muppet Show, repeats of that were a staple of my childhood, so I like that this is the sort of parody that's also part tribute act. You can sort of see how The Scorchies would have worked as a cheap Muppets knock-off on regional kids' TV. They've captured Jo in the middle of a broadcast and put her in the role of the episode's guest and interrogate her in the style of an interview. Its is brilliant. There are even a couple of songs which fit perfectly well with the theme but aren't cringeworthy in any way. They're actually quite catchy.
I'm really looking forward to how these characters work in a Victorian setting with Jago & Litefoot.