Audio Adventures in Time and Space #30:
The Barnacled Baby
written by Anthony Keetch
Its back to the world of unlicensed Doctor Who spin-offs for another adventure featuring a well-known one-off monster from the show. This time its the shapeshifting fetus people the Zygons and... well...
Okay, to put it mildly there are times when BBV landed on the wrong wide of good taste. There was Only Human that took a hard swerve into trigger warning territory in the middle of what felt like a lightweight Doctor Who adventure and some seriously insensitive material about child loss in The Rani Reaps The Whirlwind. By comparison inflicting the mental image of a Zygon beastfeeding is mild by comparison but still not entirely pleasant (due to it being a Zygon, not the act of breastfeeding itself, you understand). The idea is that the Zygon is weak because he doesn't have a Skarasen to drink the milk from and this woman has offered to sub in.
Anyway, the situation is this: the Zygon is alone and cut off from his spaceship and because he landed in Victorian England he's ended up in a freakshow. The owner sees “the Barnacled Baby of the Sea” as his meal ticket, a wonder that Queen Victoria wants to view and PT Barnum wants to exhibit. There's also a wealthy doctor, Sir Frederick Maltravers (played by Clive Merrison, to my great surprise) who wants to purchase the Zygon in the name of science.
Talking of surprising voices, this is the first time I've heard Deborah Watling perform since her death. Its always a funny feeling, that voice from the past you know is no longer around. I sort of dread listening to the final Jago & Litefoot box set for this very reason. Watling appears only briefly but gets in a corker of the final scene where she gets to deliver the twist punchline I'm starting to get used to from these monster-led audios.
Bizarre breastfeeding scenes aside, this is actually a good take on one of the classic science-fiction situations. Bobby the Zygon (who has an alien name but one the internet refuses to tell me how to spell) is in a weak position and proceeds to manipulate or murder whoever he needs to in an attempt to locate his ship. Running alongside the Zygon's story is tale of typically squalid Victorian family drama with the freakshow owner Jethro and his much abused daughter Doris, her former lover Toby and the financial problems and opportunities of all three. Its actually a lot better written and performed than the last couple of these monster audio I listened to. Quality-wise its much more like The Quality of Mercy was: well-acted and atmospheric with a well-realised historical setting.
Sadly, TARDIS Wikia credits Anthony Keetch with only three other pieces of Doctor Who fiction, all of them prose Short Trips and he;s mainly an actor. In fact, he's Coordinator Vansell from the early Gallifrey-set Big Finish audios which I didn't realise under the thick jolly Cockney accent. Pity, I would rather have enjoyed hearing some more full-length audios from him.