Big Finish Review: Doctor Who - The High Price of Parking
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This month Big Finish returns to its standard four-part story releases. This time Sylvester McCoy's Seventh Doctor and his companion Ace (Sophie Aldred) who starred in last month's Shadow Planet World Apart are back and joined by former companion Mel (Bonnie Langford).
The High Price Of Parking, written by John Dorney and directed by Ken Bentley, has been released on digital audio and CD. It's available for Big Finish customers now and goes on general release on the 31st August. Here's the synopsis...
The planet Dashrah is a world of exceptional beauty. Historical ruins; colourful skies; swirling sunsets…
Unsurprisingly, it’s a major tourist trap. So if you want to visit Dashrah, first you’ll have to visit Parking, the artificial planetoid that Galactic Heritage built next door. Parking, as its name implies, is a spaceship park. A huge spaceship park. A huge, enormous spaceship park.
When the TARDIS materialises in Parking’s Northern Hemisphere, the Doctor, Ace and Mel envisage a quick teleport trip to the surface of Dashrah. But they’ve reckoned without the superzealous Wardens, and their robotic servitors… the sect of the Free Parkers, who wage war against the Wardens… the spontaneously combusting spaceships… and the terrifying secret that lies at the lowest of Parking’s lower levels.
Once again, I'll be joined by my 11-year old son Ben, one of the biggest Doctor Who fans this side of Gallifrey.
Baz Greenland (age 36)
I have to admit, when I listened to the trailer for The High Price Of Parking last month, I wasn't convinced. Tribal warfare on a parking lot - could it really sustain a four-part story? Needless to say though, when I delved into this latest release, I was rather surprised at how much I enjoyed and that's mostly down to writer John Dorney innovative idea of taking a high rise car park and turning it into a planet-sized setting on the edge of a galactic tourist attraction. For something so mundane (and the story really plays on that idea), it was a rather fun setting for the latest Seventh Doctor adventure.
What's some ingenious about the idea is that you can relate to the setting, visualise it so clearly. You might be in a parking area the size of a continent but we can all remember wandering around dimly lit, grey concrete parking lots searching for a car at some point in our lives. Translating that into an epic trek that can take days, Dorney plays with the idea that civilisations can spring out of nowhere.
The lost tribes of this story are people that came to the tourist planet centuries ago and simply couldn't find their way back to their ship. Chaos ensued and these tourists simply became lost, destined to populate a nomadic tribe of people wandering the lower lots in search of a place to call home. Even this idea is kept suitably mundane, grim even, with Gabrielle Glaister's tribal leader Cowley delivering the most wonderfully monotonous performance imaginable.
Throwing in a band of people that run to break free and rebel and wardens desperately trying to keep order and it's a great setting for the Doctor, Mel and Ace to wander into. It's a very strong story for Mel who is better served here than she ever was in the series, using her newfound computer skills to save the story. Ace gets a lot less to do, though she had a meaty role in last month's Shadow Planet World Apart so her subdued role can be forgiven here. And Sylvester McCoy is a delight as always, the mischievous, manipulative Doctor trying to outwit the evil intelligence that is the Seraphim.
Throwing in abandoned ships that have evolved into an evil super intelligence is a nice twist in the final parts of the story, turning it from a giant car park power struggle into something far more epic - the spread of an artificial intelligence seeking to spread through the galaxy and destroy humanity.
The third and fourth parts of The High Price Of Parking are admittedly a lot stronger than the first two; after delivering an excellent bout of scene setting there does seem to be a lot of aimless wandering the struggles between the evil wardens, Mel and her new ally, the Doctor and Ace, the lost tribes and the rebels feel confusing at times. But when the momentum builds and the true threat is revealed, the story builds to a wonderful climax, absolutely delivering on the premise.
And that's what I'll take away from this story; Doctor Who has dealt with evil computers and tribes before, but the unique setting of the planet sized car pack puts a fun twist on some old ideas.
Ben Greenland (age 11)
I shall admit, when I listened to the trailer for The High Price Of Parking at the end of last month’s Shadow Planet World Apart I wasn’t particularly excited for it, but upon listening to it fully, it was an enjoyable experience.
Note, that Big Finish have gone back to one, four-part adventure for the main range. It is also intriguing to note that Melanie ‘Mel’ Bush has returned, after her trilogy with the explosives expert and the tiny man with the time machine, last year, a set that concluded with Maker of Demons. She is also set to have more adventures with the duo. One of my favourite lines from The High Price Of Parking, is when they’re trying to escape a cell, and Mel says she can get them out with the computer code, and Ace asks how long it will take; Mel does it in 2 seconds, and the Doctor remarks "Who needs a sonic screwdriver, when you have a Mel!"
The idea of Parking itself is quite absurd. A planetoid car park, not find finding where you parked, the tribe of the lost, the free parkers and a sentient spaceship. Also, Mel Ace and the Doctor are separated a lot. The ending is quite hilarious too! Overall The High Price Of Parking was quite enjoyable. It throws you into it quickly and the cliffhangers were marvellous too! After this adventure, I hope the time travelling trio are ready to face The Blood Furnace next month…
A little on the slim side this month. A trailer for the next Big Finish audio, also starring the Seventh Doctor, Ace and Mel, featuring the sinister Blood Furnace on the streets of early 90's Merseyside - a contemporary setting for that Doctor?
There are a couple of short interview tracks; Aldred recounts getting lost in her own multi story car park and Langford talks the joys of making Mel more computer savvy this time round.
But the best stuff is saved for the story itself...