Doctor Who episodes 640 & 641: Slipback – Episodes One & Two (25/7/1985)
‘We’re not where we’re supposed to be.’ Made and broadcast by BBC Radio, with two 10-minute episodes airing each Thursday. It picks up pretty much where the TV episodes left off, with a grouchy Peri rousing the Doctor from a drunken slumber and interrupting a very White Guardianish message about the ‘eclipse of time’. It has the same archness as Revelation of the Daleks, with a computer that sounds like it’s been programmed with the Trillian voice pattern.
That clues us in to the idea that writer Eric Saward is pitching for a Hitch-Hikers’ Guide tone. Performances are whimsical rather than macho, and some of the dialogue reaches for Blackadder-style simile (the console has ‘started to wink, flash and grunt like some dirty old man in a park’). It’s an interesting choice, even if it requires a previously undetected level of skill for the author to successfully pull off. But better this than endless dour scenes of military types shouting at each other.
It’s also very clearly the inspiration for the entire 21st Century revival given it begins with someone shouting for Wilson in amongst the ducting.
‘I am growing rather tired of your waffling on in what you obviously think is a mysterious and ethereal voice.’ It’s mostly just running around corridors, but Saward’s script shows a decent grasp of how to make this engaging on the radio. Having the villain be a disembodied voice, for a start. And using the garrulous Peri’s sudden silence (and the computer’s explanation for it) for the cliffhanger.
This continues to be very 1985 Doctor Who: the villain has lured the Doctor to the ship because it needs to drain the knowledge of a Time Lord (very The Two Doctors), and Peri exists as an object to be lusted after. The flipside: the Doctor and Peri team works a lot better on audio when there’s no obvious physical disparity: Peri sounds like she can hold her own, the Doctor sounds like he genuinely cares about her, and the banter has less of a sour edge to it which fits better with the comedy tone.
The humour is fairly broad, but not unappealing – Valentine Dyall sounds great as his Captain character steams in his lava bath and calls Grant ‘Mister’ like Beryl Reid in Earthshock. The computer starts to get cross with the mysterious voice and complains about her own ‘stoopid’ accent.
Next episode: Slipback – Episode Three