I was just starting to wonder if I’d fallen out of love with the Doctor Who audios when I’d started this. I mean, I loved when McCoy became the Doctor. Everything about him was wonderful. He was comical, but dark and mysterious too. He rolled his r’s and had a Scottish accent – who doesn’t love a Scottish accent? But when I started Unregenerate, his confused ramblings just annoyed me. He rolls those r’s where there’s simply no need. And Mel… goodness, I was not a fan of her originally and was glad when she left. But as this story went on, I was becoming increasingly intrigued and Mel carries the bulk of the story. I’d go so far as to say she makes the story! That’s a tough thing for me to admit, but there it is.
Taking place not long after the Doctor’s regeneration, the two are separated (this has been an ongoing thing for Mel – I think the writers are trying to tell us something). She befriends an unnamed cabbie while trying to find out where the Doctor is. There’s a mystery around a Mephistophelean deal, an asylum and a missing Doctor… what more could one ask for? As usual things are not what they seem. The asylum is a fascade and once inside, the investigative duo finds they are not in Kansas anymore. (That’s Kansas, England… Not really, but I was going for the idea, not the real place.)
“The Doctor deals in impossibilities.” Well, I’ll give Mel that one and it might be the very reason we tune in for more because it’s just so much fun! Just as I was thinking I might have started another “missed opportunity”, we get a story about rogue Time Lords experimenting on mind-grafts. Imagine overwriting a hard drive with new data – that’s what they are doing to a person’s brain. They are imprinting TARDIS minds on the human bodies. The original mind is wiped and the new personality is inserted. Great concept. But even the scientists involved realize what they are doing isn’t right. Mel hits us with another great quote while trying to reason with the bad guys. “When there are two extremes … the right way is somewhere in the middle.” And that’s part of what makes this such a good episode. There are no actual “bad guys”; just misguided scientists trying to do right things through unethical means. “Sometimes the ends do justify the means, but not always.” The one hard-headed character ends up being defeated by the other characters; the Doctor doesn’t bring about the victory; if anything, Mel does.
There’s a pattern with the Big Finish range; they are improving all the time, but they still get some things wrong. Shokhra is a “compound entity” which means he speaks with many voices. Think: The Borg. Very cool sounding… when you can understand them. While driving, it’s a bit more of a challenge. The sounds of the road definitely make things challenging. But really, that was the only negative I could come up with. The story kept me engaged, the Doctor becomes whole and very enjoyable again, Mel carries the episode and our guest cabbie ends up being a refreshingly down-to-earth character. They even have a chapter ending in an airlock and I did not see what was coming with that!
I definitely think there are some episodes that would make for incredible visual stories and this is one of them. I would love to have seen this put to screen; it might even have helped with the compound entity. It definitely would have helped me like Mel that much more. (Don’t misunderstand, in the end I did like Mel even on TV, but I think I was just bummed that we got rid of Peri and replaced her with a living soundwave.) Doctor Who is a show that can experiment with multiple formats, in multiple mediums; how could it go wrong when experimenting within the story as well? ML