Review by Doctor Squee (Host of Gallifrey Stands Podcast)
John Dorney writes this 7th Doctor adventure in which the Doctor (Sylvester McCoy), Ace (Sophie Aldred) and Mel (Bonnie Langford) visit the planetoid ‘Parking’ to park the Tardis on the way to its host planet Dashrah. Unfortunately things have gone awry on this planet-sized car park; as our Tardis crew find out when some rather suspicious parking wardens mistaken them for ‘Free Parkers’. But what are the free parkers? Why are they out to blow ships up on Parking? And what exactly is going on in the lower levels of Parking?
It’s an interesting mix with the versions of the characters & the plot we get in this adventure. The Seventh Doctor seems like the plotting and more self-aware Doctor from the later part of the characters run on TV and on Big Finish. Mel again actually uses her computer skills to great effect and is the more evolved version of the character from recent Big Finish. Ace seems to be more her impulsive and explosive self from the TV run. All this alongside a fun and more light hearted story the seventh Doctor doesn’t always tend toward these days for audio.
I liked the premise of having a parking planet and the fun you can poke at bureaucracy and even our inability to remember where we have parked as part of that. It was interesting to hear in the extras how John Dorney has been trying to realise one version or another of this story for years and the performances as ever were great.
I think for me though this might have felt too comical in places. The tribal people who are suspected to be the free parkers talk in a simplistic way. These people are the non-establishment; and the establishment characters speak well and seem a little posh. This felt a little on the nose and maybe too deliberately played for comedy for these archetypes. It would be really interesting to have this subverted. Maybe as the underclass of people they could have valued knowledge and wisdom over all else and they speak proudly and clearly. There is a funny part where they talk of the history of parking and how a race and religion sprouted up around it and this shows how the humour in the piece is strong, but it then clashes somewhat when we get a great more sinister villain in the third act. It just felt in places to me that a small fun joke of a parking planet was stretched a little thin and maybe this could have taken a back seat a little earlier. Director Ken Bentley did manage the casting and performances quite well, but I think maybe he and script editor Alan Barnes could have evened up the pace just a touch.
So for me, not a bad story or listen on the whole by any means; but sometimes it does fall between two stools. I give this 6/10
You can buy it on CD or download here https://www.bigfinish.com/releases/v/the-high-price-of-parking-1257