‘The Farakosh attack us – and my Exotrons defend us.’
On a distant colonial outpost of Earth, a group of terraformers is under threat from the planet’s most fearsome predator: the giant carnivorous Farakosh. All that stands between the colonists and a grisly death are the Exotrons – huge robots equipped with devastating firepower, designed by the outpost’s leader, Major Taylor.
But all is not as it seems. How are the Exotrons controlled, and where did the colonists find the resources to build them? The Doctor wants answers and Taylor is reluctant to provide them.
Meanwhile, outside the compound, the Farakosh are massing…
Peter Davison is the Doctor in Exotron. (A Three-Part Story)
X X X X X
In an expensive restaurant somewhere on Earth, three gourmets plan their evening. First item on the menu: the death of the Doctor.
Peter Davison is the Doctor in Urban Myths. (A One-Part Story)
X X X X X
Peter Davison (The Doctor)
Nicola Bryant (Peri)
John Duttine (Hector)
Isla Blair (Paula)
Nick Brimble (Shreeni)
Richard Earl (Corporal Mozz)
Claire Wyatt (Weiss)
Peter Davison (The Doctor)
Nicola Bryant (Peri)
Douglas Hodge (Edge)
Nicola Lloyd (Kettoo)
Barry McCarthy (Palgrave)
Clare Calbraith (Trooper)
Written By: Paul Sutton
Directed By: Barnaby Edwards
X X X X X
Exotron is the the best example of an “average” Doctor Who story. The plot is simple, there are a few twists and turns, and there’s a Big Bad. But throughout the story are several flaws and setbacks that prevent the story from rising to a level about “adequate.”
Peri is excited to find several samples of local fauna that she’s never seen before, and the Doctor, gently complaining, is happy to help her carry her findings back to the TARDIS. However, the pair stumble upon some local workers setting up a pylon of some sort. The pylon draws the attention of some local wildlife, a giant hyena-type creature called a Farakosh. And the Farakosh draws the attention of the local security force, a large robot called an Exotron. Ignoring the wounded workers, the Exotron takes the Doctor back to its controller leaving Peri behind in the process. While Peri and the workers try to return to the main compound under the constant threat of the Farakosh, the Doctor does his best to study the Exotrons, specifically why the Doctor seems to be able to mentally connect with its mind…
The writer for the acclaimed stories Arrangements for War and Thicker Than Water returns to Big Finish. However, this story doesn’t live up to Paul Sutton’s previous output. Exotron is another three-part story from Big Finish, and the compressed run time serves to exacerbate one of the serial’s main flaw; everything is rushed and very little is developed. The two central plot lines; Peri’s attempt to first survive, and then communicate with the Farakosh, and the Doctor’s attempts to figure out the horrible secret behind the Exotron and how it ties into his psychic abilities. There are plenty of little narrative threads running through Exotron as well, such as the imminent arrival of an Earth authority who’s interested in both the Exotrons and a little bit of mayhem, a love triangle between three characters (the creator of the Exotron, Major Taylor as played by John Duttine, head scientist Paula Taylor portrayed by Isla Blair of The King’s Demons fame, and the recently dead Christian played by Richard Earl), and an attempt to deduce why the Farakosh are so hostile. All these threads get “air time,” but the rushed nature not only leads to unsatisfying resolutions to all of them (and to Exotron as a whole), but everything about them just feels incredibly cliched. The revelation of what powers the Exotrons is interesting, but it’s been done before, and knowing the interactions of several characters, the power source of the Exotrons doesn’t come as any sort of surprise, as well as why the Farakosh are so hostile to the incoming colonists. The biggest cliché comes from the “out of nowhere” bad guy Ballentyne (Nick Brimble, who also plays the technician Shreeni), who arrives near the end of the the second episode to shoot things and blow up buildings in the third episode before sliding away with nothing more than a “he’ll get what he deserves” from the Doctor. There’s just nothing that stands out and makes Exotron unique.
Exotron is the second main range story featuring the Doctor and Peri (the previous one was release SEVEN years prior, Red Dawn, while all their other stories have been along side the Egyptian princess Erimem), and while I hate to call a companion’s part in a story superfulous, Nicola Bryant really didn’t bring much to the party other than to be put in trouble, engage in some banter with the Doctor both verbally and mentally, and provide a suggestion that since insects communicate through vibrations. Aside from the opening (where for a brief shining moment I hoped that Peri’s often mentioned botany experience might finally come into play), Peri’s part could have been played by one of Exotron’s secondary characters.
Peter Davison does a fine job, playing the sacrificing and noble Fifth Doctor as well as he ever has. His banter with Peri is top notch, as well as both his anger as Major Taylor’s experiments and his willingness to do whatever is takes to help those who have been hurt by the Exotron program. But that’s really all that I can say about Davison’s performance – it was “fine,” nothing outstanding, nothing detrimental.
Urban Myths is the one-part story that accompanies Exotron, and it also was a story where the short run time hurt the overall result. Three Time Lords from the Celestial Intervention Agency sit in a restaurant, plotting the death of the Doctor for his part in the destruction of an inhabited planet. Each Time Lord tells the story in a different way, which gives Davison and Bryant a chance to play the Doctor and Peri in new ways; in one story, they’re madmen laughing at how casually the planets dies at their hands, while in another version they’re both travelers who would rather let a planet die instead of getting their hands dirty trying to save it. It’s a fine little distraction of a story which could have used a few more minutes to perhaps expand on each individual story and color the three Time Lords beyond stuffy CIA stereotypes.
Exotron is a “ok” story at best. There’s nothing about it that drags the story down to an unlistenable level, but there’s nothing that also makes it stands out above any other Big Finish production, to the point that there’s really nothing quasi-clever I can think of to end this review.
+ It’s not a bad story in that it moves quick and keeps the action moving
– It’s not a good story in that it’s rushed and relies on a variety of cliches
Cobi’s synopsis – Exotron is an adequate audio – there’s nothing that really stands out to make it special, but there’s also nothing that would see it tossed in the rubbish bin.
Next up – The former Doctor (FOR SALE. EXCELLENT CONDITION) visits the Job Centre and finds power cuts, barcoded citizens and monthly riots (ALL BOOKABLE)…
Sylvester McCoy is the Doctor in…Valhalla.