Oh dear, K-9’s new voice is completely shit. What on Earth was that? I appreciate the decision to not merely mimic John Leeson’s version, but he now has an arch, detached tone, which makes him come across as incredibly smug and unlikeable. How can you make K-9 unlikeable? I didn’t really mind when we were told he’d been killed by the wolfweeds. Combined with this story’s tendency to have people pick him up and plonk him down willy-nilly, the effect is to reduce K-9 to a talking prop, rather than the fully-fledged character he’s grown to become, up to now.
Anyway, this serial concerns the adventures of a giant scrotum, complete with articulated yet flaccid, wrinkly old penis. The looks are a bit of a shame, as the writing is very good – The Doctor realising that the creature isn’t necessarily evil, and his attempts to communicate with it. There’s also a good sense of humour spread throughout, with Geoffrey Bayldon as Organon the highlight.
It’s a light tale, but not necessarily a fluffy one. There’s a dark, violent edge to it, with quite a high body count. The comic scenes, such as those involving the bandits, or The Doctor trying to talk down the creature’s proboscis, all serve to advance the plot and ramp up the drama. I’ve seen Douglas Adams’s influence criticised for turning the show into a comedy, but for me, the structure is the same as it’s always been, it’s just that it’s not afraid to be funny while it’s doing it, not dissimilar to the lighter adventures under RTD and Moffat.
I quite like having a smaller scale to the adventure every now and then. The universe doesn’t have to be at stake every week, and it suits The Doctor’s character to take an equal interest in problems that are tiny in the grand scheme of things. There’s plenty to enjoy along the way, not least the machinations of Lady Adrasta falling apart around her, and the excellent way Romana escapes from the bandits by just convincing them that she’s in charge.
The one high-stakes bit in this serial – the planet being threatened with obliteration right at the end – seemed a little tacked on, and the scale of the action was perhaps beyond the technical capabilities of the team. It felt like the story I’d been watching finished with more than half an episode still to go, and the rest was an overlong post-script.
Overall though, an enjoyable and entertaining meander through a curious and well fleshed-out world… but man, K-9’s new voice is shit. I can’t stop thinking about how shit it is.