Audio Adventures in Time and Space #26
written by Lance Parkin
So, back in the day before Big Finish there was BBV, a fan-run company that made independent audio dramas using whatever bits and pieces of Doctor Who they could license from non-BBC sources (monsters owned by writers, for instance) or casting familiar actors in strangely familiar but not quite copyrighted roles (such as having Sylvester McCoy playing a time traveler called “The Professor”).
Some of these releases got a little obscure.
Take this one, for instance: the I are an alien race from a single Eighth Doctor novel, Seeing I by Kate Orman and Jon Blum. I remember literally nothing about them except that they were the running the world from behind the scenes types. In the case of this story the world is Glaspar, a planet given over almost completely to ice cream production, the best ice cream in the galaxy.
Out POV character and narrator is played by Lisa Bowerman, the manager of the largest ice cream restaurant on the planet. On Galspar the company runs everything (a running theme of Doctor Who books at the time) and everyone, ultimately, works for the company. They run the media as well with a sort of Orwellian brainwashy thing called the I Screen interrupting the narration from time to time to tell you how great the company is.
Bowerman's character (who is either never named or I wasn't listening) meets a group of dropouts let by the pretty and charismatic John. She goes on an astral projecting joyride with him and his telepath friend and encounter the I.
There's a lot of pop psychology stuff about teenage rebellion and counter-culture as an aspect of culture. Its a bit dull, to be honest. The dull ice cream-themed dystopia turns out to be run by bodysnatcher-style emotionless managers, the main evidence for this conclusion being that the one we encounter speaks a bit stiltedly and doesn't get off on having picture of Bowerman's character naked. There's a nice twist where Bowerman's character thinks the dropouts are part of the system, secret police.
She's wrong, sadly, but it was a nice twist while it lasted.
After that Bowerman's character descends into complete paranoia about being watched by the I. The narration is, to be honest, a little overwrought. She finds herself in hospital after an apparent suicide attempt. Naturally, she doesn't help herself by just plainly describing her belief the world is being controlled by insect people to the doctors in the hospital. Paranoia is a hard thing to convey only in sound and I'm not sure everything Parkin does works but there are some cool moments as Bowerman's narration becomes more and more frantic.
Ultimately its a bit like one of those short 2000AD comic strips: a big high concept with an ending that has a nice punch but isn't meant to go further than it does.