Doctor Who – “The One Doctor”

When the evil Skelloids launch an attack upon the seventeen worlds of the Generios system, its peace-loving inhabitants face total destruction.

So it’s fortunate that the famous traveller in time and space known only as the Doctor is in the area, and doubly lucky that, with the help of his pretty young assistant, Sally-Anne, he manages to defeat the deadly creatures and save the day.

But now it looks as though the Doctor¹s luck has run out.

Who is the mysterious, curly-haired stranger who insists on causing trouble? What role does the feisty redhead Melanie play in his scheme? And what have they to do with the sinister alien cylinder approaching Generios?

One thing is certain: for the Doctor and Sally-Anne, there’s deadly danger ahead…

Colin Baker is the Doctor in…The One Doctor.

Colin Baker (The Doctor)
Bonnie Langford (Melanie Bush)
Christopher Biggins (Banto Zame)
Clare Buckfield (Sally-Anne Stubbins)
Matt Lucas (Cylinder / The Jelloid)
Stephen Fewell (Councillor Potikol / Assembler 2)
Nicholas Pegg (Citizen Sokkery / Mentos)
Jane Goddard (The Questioner / Queen Elizabeth)
Adam Buxton (Assembler 1)
Mark Wright (Guard)
Alistair Lock (Guard)

Written By: Gareth Roberts and Clayton Hickman
Directed By: Gary Russell



For a show packed with humorous moments, Doctor Who rarely does out-and-out comedy.

Everyone has what they perceive as the “funniest” moment; from Four’s “what a wonderful butler, he’s so violent” to Nine’s “I’m trying to resonate concrete, from Three asking the Brigadier to pass a vital piece of scientific equipment, only to use it to stir his tea, and Eleven informing Craig that his infant son prefers to be called “STORMAGEDDON, DARK LORD OF ALL,” all the way back to Two and Jamie or even…

Personally, my favorite moment is from Castrovalva as Five quietly comments that “yes, well, that’s democracy for you.”

But those funny moments are highlights and stand-outs. Doctor Who prefers to play it a bit serious, even when it’s trying to be funny. There’s always the threat of absolute terror or imminent danger, and comedy only breaks the tension before the Daleks come rolling in. The few times Who has leaned more towards the comedic side, it’s turned into an absolute mess. Love and Monsters, anyone?

So, when Big Finish decided to do a light-hearted audio release for Christmas 2001, when the world was reeling from 9/11 and the war in Afghanistan, they went all out. They took the hammiest of Doctors, a companion who’s cheerfulness drove viewers insane, paired them with a perfect pair of foils, and set them in an adventure filled with mistaken identity, dueling insults, do-it-yourself furniture, a never ending game show, and a port-a-loo. The end result is easily the funniest serial Doctor Who has put together in any format and what should be considered one of Big Finish’s crowning achievements.

The Doctor accidentally sets the wide-range distress transceiver to maximum range, and it’s during a cutthroat game of Monopoly with one Melanie Bush that the TARDIS takes the pair to the vulgar end of time; a time where everything has been discovered, everyone knows everything, and all the wars are boring. The pair arrive on Generios One in the midst of a grand celebration. The entire population is praising their savior, who, with the aid of his lovely companion, has driven off the evil Skelloids. Of course, no reward is necessary…save, for, ten million credits so the Doctor and his companion, Sally-Anne, can purchase “pluvon power crystals” to power their time machine, the STARDIS. But this isn’t a future incarnation of the Doctor; the Doctor is sure of that. As the Doctor and Mel confront the “Doctor” and Sally-Anne, the skies over Generios One darken. A cylinder hangs in the atmosphere, demanding the three greatest treasures in the Generios System as tribute, or else it will destroy every planet in the system. The planet only has a short time to hand over the tribute; five marlegs (which is three Generiosian hours). And with the tribute spread out across the system, the only person who can gather them in time is the Doctor. But which one?

From the very beginning, where Colin Baker gloats evilly over the progress of a game of Monopoly, The One Doctor is pure pantomime. For those of us who don’t hail from Britain, pantomime is, to pull from Wikipedia, “a theatrical entertainment, mainly for children, that involves music, topical jokes, and slapstick comedy and is based on a fairy tale or nursery story, usually produced around Christmas.” As opposed to the “serious, but witty” standard Doctor Who usually sets, The One Doctor is a full-frontal assault on the listener in the most delightful way, as we are greeted by “The Doctor” and his companion, Sally-Anne, as they stand fresh from a victory against the Skelloids. “The Doctor” in this case is played by Christopher Biggins, a well-known British comedic and theatre actor. Biggins plays the role like Colin Baker turned up to ’12,’ as he has to be since Baker is turned up to ‘11’ all by himself! Biggins is confident, he’s brash, he’s bombastic, and he’s a con artist named Banto Zane, who’s playing upon the legend of the Doctor to scam planets by inventing a fake threat and then showing up as their “savior” when all is lost. When the situation favors him, he’s modest, yet engaging and charismatic. When it all goes wrong, he’s a coward who cowers and waits for the end. Biggins plays the part with pure zeal, proud of his “achievements” and all he’s drawn from the Doctor’s legacy – including the STARDIS. Sure, it’s a port-a-loo and not a phone box, but it’s blue, rectangular, has writing on it, and always has coppers hanging around it!

Biggins is set for most of the story with Mel, which gives an interesting role to play – the Brave Companion against the Craven Doctor. Much like The Fires of Vulcan, Mel comes off as much more likable and with stronger characterization than during her TV run. Bonnie Langford got her start in pantomime and has starred in musicals throughout her career. Melanie Bush is the PERFECT companion for this type of audio, and the script plays her cheerfulness, optimism, and spirit to the hilt without making it overbearing. Her conversations and dialogue with the Sixth Doctor are natural and full of friendship, while when paired with “The Doctor,” Mel steps up, takes charge, leads the way, and solves their almost-fatal dilemma. Langford played a bubbly-but-subdued Mel in the more dramatic Fires of Vulcan, but here, she does a complete 180, and the play is much better for it. She tells a great story when the chips are down that, to paraphrase, “Bush’s never give up. It had snowed eight feet in Pease Pottage one Christmas, but we saddled up, took a hot thermos, and trekked 10 kilometers to town to put on the Christmas play! Sadly, no one else showed up.”

And Colin Baker…every time I hear him portray the Doctor, I want to find Michael Garde, tie him to a chair, and make him watch Fear Her until his eyes have both bled out and dried out. Baker has always been a louder and more arrogant Doctor. Now, imagine a script where he’s simply allowed to cut loose, and you have a grand performance. He’s stunned and flustered by “The Doctor” and how many things he’s simply gotten wrong about him, let alone the fact that he stole his very name! Sure, the Sixth Doctor is a bit portly and wishes for more manageable hair, but he’s still the Doctor and several very choice insults will establish that fact, thank you very much!

So what do you get when you put the Doctor with a knock-off companion? As opposed to the cowardly “Doctor,” Clare Buckfield’s Sally-Anne is blonde, acidic, and has had…er…mammary enhancement, as the cosmos’ most complete information database would be happy to tell you. She is infatuated with “The Doctor,” until she meets the real thing. And then, she can’t keep her hands off of him, falling into mad infatuation as soon as she feels his two heartbeats. Buckfield is the money-chaser, the gold-digger, but deep down inside, she tries to do the right thing. While we might dislike “The Doctor,” Sally-Anne slowly wins us over as Buckfield plays up her pluck even as she snarks at and about Mel.

The script and the sound go hand in hand. The script gives the Doctor and companion and “The Doctor” and companion a standard “fetch quest” ala The Chase, but it’s pretty much the framing device for the situations and the witty dialogue. I don’t want to go into detail without giving anything away, but anyone who’s had a long night of putting up shelves or found themselves on a cutthroat game show will definitely relate to the first two treasures, while the third treasure, its guardian and the situation could have come straight from a British sketch show. The script pokes fun at the situations and alien/monsters/villains throughout the history of Doctor Who. Seriously, it’s an audio play where the TARDIS still ends up in a BBC Quarry! And the Disassemblers are low-budget Daleks, with cries of “DIS-A-SEMBLE” and “WE ARE THE BEST!” The sounds of the cheering crowd, the voice of the Cylinder as it threatens Generios (a generic planet, mayhaps?), the constant background noise of a game show hostess asking questions during the third episode…mix that in with a pantomime musical score, complete with triumphant horns, horns of losing, horns of distress, horns of pursuit…it all just comes together perfectly, a light-hearted farce that, after the seriousness of Colditz and Primeval, brings forth a smile well worth having.

Synopsis – ‘Awe inspiring in that coat? Have you taken a look in the mirror recently? Come to think of it I shouldn’t think you do much else!’

‘I intend to rise above your barbs…but before I do I’d like to say that this coat can only be appreciated by someone with a sharpened aesthetic sense – not a dunderhead like you!’

‘Sharpened aesthetic sense? Sharpened by what a dose of mind altering drugs?’

‘I warn you a verbal duel with me would only lead to ignominy for you!’

‘Igno-what? Talking with you is like arguing with a thesaurus!’

‘Anyway, this planet…it’s a gigantic body composed almost entirely of super heated gas.’

‘Rather like you then!’

‘If I have to endure another insult…’

‘Oh here we go, another voyage around the English language!’ 4/5

Next up – A year after a mysterious meteorite lit up the skies of New York state, Martian invaders laid waste to the nation. At least, according to soon-to-be infamous Orson Welles they did. But what if some of the panicked listeners to the legendary War of the Worlds broadcast weren’t just imagining things?

Paul McGann is the Doctor in…Invaders from Mars.

About cobiwann

A guy who's into a niche fandom of a niche fandom - the Big Finish audio plays of "Doctor Who." Also into the show itself, both old and new, plus pop culture and a smattering of human insight.
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