Review: Doctor Who – Silver & Ice

Review by Jacob Licklider

18 months. It has been 18 months since Big Finish Productions has released a solo Seventh Doctor audio with Sylvester McCoy in the role. The Grey Man of the Mountain was released in December 2020. It is now June 2022 and in between we had one small cameo in The End of the Beginning and a Short Trip read by Sophie Aldred, but that has finally changed. Silver and Ice has been released after a long time coming and it’s honestly not entirely what I expected. While every other Doctor’s set has been tied around some theme with Forty, Water Worlds, and Beyond War Games all work around a theme with The Annihilators and The Outlaws featuring central stories. Silver and Ice is odd as the two stories it contains, Bad Day in Tinseltown and The Ribos Inheritance really have no connection outside of being two stories featuring the Seventh Doctor and Mel. They almost feel as if there was an intention for them to make up a Main Range trilogy, especially if the second set, announced to be Sullivan and Cross – AWOL, continues the format. This disconnect makes me feel a bit odd about giving the set as a whole a rating as these are essentially two stand alone stories and perhaps would have been more effective had they been released as two single releases.

Bad Day in Tinseltown is perhaps emblematic of needing to be its own release. The script is from Dan Starkey making it his fifth full cast script for Big Finish Productions, and as a writer he is interesting in the fact that he writes a story hanging on a single idea. This idea is placing the Seventh Doctor and Mel in a space western this time because that is something that could be a lot of fun while the Cybermen secretly invade. The inclusion of the Cybermen here is simultaneously great and terrible as they are used as almost a marketing ploy for listeners to look into picking up the set as the first episode barely features them while the second goes off into a completely different direction in doing a classic Cyberman story. The use of the Cybermen in the second half is great, Dan Starkey understands the body horror inherent in the aliens while sending up some famous tropes. The way the Cybermen have been waiting and when they strike and convert this entire mining town is great. There is a character, Big Gerald played by Nicholas Briggs, who is a bit too similar to Toberman from The Tomb of the Cybermen and all of the oddness that that entails. The body horror of the entire town being converted is also used to great effect with some brilliant sound design from Steve Foxon. Dan Starkey also has an acting role as Mungo where he’s clearly having a blast as is the rest of the cast, but the script falls down by being just a bit too over the top and not really exploring all of its ideas. There’s an anti-capitalist, post-Brexit bent to the proceedings which has the potential to be great, it’s clearly an issue close to Starkey’s heart as there is an attempt to tie the Cyberman conversion process to how capitalism treats workers all tied in a space western, but despite filling an entire CD it is still limited by the story being an hour long. This is one that is desperately asking to be four episodes to explore its themes and characters as the Doctor has little to do in this one as well. As it stands, it’s fine. 6/10.

The set really shines with Jonathan BarnesThe Ribos Inheritance, a story that has no right to exist nor a right to be as good as it is. The Ribos Operation is one of those overlooked Tom Baker story from Robert Holmes, though its fans are intensive in their love of the story for good reason, it’s perhaps the best example of what the Graham Williams era has to offer when it comes to Doctor Who. It is also a story that doesn’t really need a follow up, however, Jonathan Barnes saw the potential to expand worldbuilding in writing The Ribos Inheritance and tying the story to present day climate change while following Robert Holmes’ vein of political commentary on the nature of monarchy. It’s a story that makes great use of the four part format, with each episode almost being its own story that develops with each episode. The initial premise is that the Doctor wants to take Mel on a holiday to Ribos during Sun Time after some of their experiences travelling and failing to have a holiday (it’s heavily implied that Paradise Towers and Delta and the Bannermen have already happened). Ribos, however, has found itself in a perpetual Ice Time, years after it should have changed to Sun Time, eventually revealed to being the doing of Garron who has become a Wizard of Oz style Hermit on the planet. There are also factions massing for war while the king, played by Homer Todiwala, takes the Doctor as an advisor with the new Seeker, played by Issy van Randwyck. They essentially act as the angel and devil on the king’s shoulder which is a lot of fun and is subverted really well in the final episode. Sylvester McCoy and Bonnie Langford are also brilliant in this story specifically, McCoy in particular as this is a nice mix of the character between Seasons 24 and 25-26. His time away from the role also seems to have just revitalised his performance so I’m very much looking forward to more McCoy audios to be released later this year. The recast of Garron to David Rintoul who isn’t attempting to impersonate Iain Cuthbertson, but gives his own spin on the role which makes his appearance all the better. All in all, The Ribos Inheritance is what sets the set apart. A bit too many twists here and there, but the performances and Samuel Clemens direction is wonderful. 8/10.

Overall, The Seventh Doctor Adventures: Silver and Ice brings back a Doctor that listeners has been missing in two very different stories that have their own identity, though struggle slightly to make the set conform. The different natures of the stories will appeal to two very different audiences, so there’s something for nearly everybody. 7/10.

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Review: Doctor Who – The Grey Man of the Mountain

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