THIS STORY TAKES
AUDIO BOOK "THE LAST
SERIES OF NOVELLAS.
BBC AUDIO CD (ISBN 1-4
IN MARCH 2010.
At the bottom of the
sea, in the wreck of
a floating radio
station, a lost AUDIO
recording has been
it is played for the
first time - to reveal
It is the voice of the
from Radio Bravo in
1966. He has COME TO
Earth in search of
the Hush - a weapon
that silences and
that makes noise -
and has tracked it
to a boat crewed by
a team of pirate DJs.
With the help of THE
feisty Layla and
some groovy pop
music, he must trap
the Hush and destroy
it - before it escapes
and destroys the
As January’s Last Voyage had been heavily promoted as the tenth Doctor’s final exclusive audio adventure, when Dead Air popped up on DWO’s release guide I was rather taken aback… just as I would be again, four weeks later, when I opened up my parcel from Play to find one CD less than usual but for the same price!
The preceding Doctor Who “audio exclusives” have each been two-disc sets comprised
of two, feature-length episodes narrated by an actor from the television series. Dead Air, however, is something altogether different, and altogether more alluring. Two episodes are crammed onto one disc, affording the production the sort of tempo commensurate with one of Big Finish’s Companion Chronicles. And better still, the story isn’t narrated by David Tennant but by the Doctor himself, in the first person.
A thoroughly post-modern affair, Dead Air involves the listener in a way that scant few audio productions can, making the audience part of the unfolding story and even threatening them directly in a manner that is sure to strike a chilling chord with the youngest of listeners. The first episode’s pre-title sequence begins with a representative of BBC Audio introducing a recording recently discovered amidst the wreckage of a sunken pirate radio ship and then remastered by their “archivist” James Goss. This is then followed by the Doctor’s harrowing overture: “Hello, I’m the Doctor. And, if you can hear this, then one of us is going to die…”
The Doctor’s narration imbues Dead Air with a sense of vitality and even authenticity that the six prior exclusives lacked. Goss absolutely nails Tennant’s Doctor’s way of speaking and sustains it for the duration of his script, and inevitably David Tennant’s performance is wonderfully evocative of his televised portrayal. Tennant also gives distinctive voices to the three supporting characters that, thanks in no small part to the way that they are written, are each instantly recognisable: we have “posh” Jasper; “deep” Tom-o; and “feisty liverpudlian” Layla, who bears the companion mantle here. And then there’s the Hush…
And Goss’ story itself is inspired, not
just in its premise and narrative but
also in its timing. With the colour and
the sound of the blockbuster movie
The Boat That Rocked still fresh in
people’s minds, the prospect of a
Doctor Who adventure set on board
a floating pirate radio station is surely
too tempting a proposition to pass up
for most fans. The real beauty of this
one though is that, despite the initial 1960s vibrancy, it soon becomes as dark, as dank and
as disturbing a story as any that you’ll find released under the series’ auspices. Indeed, the
idea of an indiscriminate Time Lord weapon that silences and devours anything that makes noise (designed to wipe out screeching Daleks, quite amusingly) is very probably the most unsettling thing that could be thrown at the decade that begot groovy pop music. And if you found the “data ghosting” of Silence in the Library spooky, then just imagine how creepy it’d be on vinyl…
I was also impressed by the tale’s gratifying lack of resolution, which draws the listener right into the middle of the fiction and then closes the world around them. In context, of course, we all know that the tenth Doctor must survive his encounter with the Hush to go on and meet his heartrending fate in The End of Time, but if enjoyed in isolation this story leaves a lingering chill. And of course, irrespective of what happens to the Time Lord at the end of this one, the listener’s fate is always in jeopardy - particularly if he or she is “stupid” enough to listen right to the end…
“I can save the world, but I couldn’t entertain people in a traffic jam. Know your limits.”
All told then, Dead Air is a real delight – innovative, inspired and quite easily the pick of the tenth Doctor audio exclusives. If hanging on to his tenure by the skin of his teeth is going to prove this diverting, I can only hope that Dead Air doesn’t prove to the BBC’s last surprise for us.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2010
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
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