THE DOCTOR WHO RATINGS GUIDE: BY FANS, FOR FANS

Big Finish Productions
Bang-Bang-A-Boom!

Written by Gareth Roberts & Clayton Hickman Cover image
Format Compact Disc
Released 2002
Continuity Between Paradise Towers and Delta and the Bannermen.

Starring Sylvester McCoy and Bonnie Langford
Also featuring Sabina Franklyn Graeme Garden, Vidar Magnussen, Nickolas Grace, Patricia Quinn, Anthony Spargo, Jane Goddard, David Tughan

Synopsis: Dark Space 8 - an advanced monitoring station floating serenely among the stars. Its crew - a dedicated and highly-skilled group of professionals, calmy going about their vital work. Its mission - to boldy host the Intergalactic Song Contest.


Reviews

Cinque point by Andrew Wixon 4/2/03

The One Doctor is amongst Big Finish's most successful productions (yes it is, settle down at the back) and so it's entirely understandable that they should commission a follow-up. It's also entirely understandable that they should want to avoid repeating themselves. So the notes given to the writers here seem to have been along the lines of 'do something exactly the same, only different'.

Where The One Doctor was a parody of Dr Who itself (taking in a few current TV series en route), BBaB casts its nets quite a bit wider, trying to make comic capital out of parodying a whole range of other SF TV shows: most obviously Deep Space Nine and Babylon 5. And as if this wasn't enough, it also decides to have a go at the Eurovision Song Contest and its presenter Terry Wogan. That these two threads jar somewhat should not come as a great surprise to anyone, and the end result seems rather self-consciously zany. The presence of the McCoy Doctor, along with his spoons and botched proverbs, raise the spectre of suspicion that this is an attempt to pastiche Season 24 (which, for the record, I don't think is nearly as bad as is widely considered).

There are some laughs here, and not necessarily in the places you might expect. Most of them rise from the interplay between McCoy and Patricia Quinn (playing a valkyrie-like alien queen). Quinn's character forms a romantic attachment with the Doctor, and his reaction to this - not to mention Mel's! - is very funny. Also quite amusing is the Space 1999 parody implicit in the plot - but I had to have this pointed out to me by the authors in their DWM preview piece, which leads me to suspect that it's far too obscure and subtly written a joke to succeed with most listeners. The songs are okay, though, even if the only one we hear any amount of is 'Of Angvia, of Angvia, I sing, I sing' by Quinn's character.

But on the whole BBaB isn't nearly as successful as its predecessor, mainly because it lacks focus. The plot holds water, and it's well cast and performed (though the Wogan impression gets wearing very, very fast), but its scattergun approach to humour works against it: it's trying too hard to be funny. Not a case of 'nul point' but Roberts & Hickman ain't going to be hosting next year's contest either.


A Review by Richard Radcliffe 10/2/03

2nd Stories from any writer will inevitably lead to a comparison with their initial effort. In Gareth Roberts case, he's an old hand at DW now - but the 2nd story syndrome applies here, as he is in collaboration with DWM Editor Clayton Hickman. Most were looking forward to Bang-Bang-a-Boom!, because The One Doctor was so splendid. We were expecting more of the same, let's own up to it. And ultimately the disappoint comes when you realize it just isn't as good.

Comparisons to other stories is a DW trademark. I recall School Holidays when my mate had just acquired a Video Machine, back in the early 80s. We sat watching some Davison or Colin Baker story, and spent the whole time discussing another story, or stories! It became something of a laugh to decide which story we would watch together, and which story we would talk about together whilst it was on!

Bang-Bang-a-Boom! is not The One Doctor. It's quite funny in places, but not to the extent of the previous offering. It does spoof Science Fiction, but the focus has shifted away from DW to all the other shows. Thus Star Trek, Babylon Five and Space 1999 get pulled apart - and it's pretty good fun all considered.

The inspiration for this story stemmed from these "other" sci-fi shows. The space station doctor, Eleanor Harcourt, is constantly harping on about some alien infestation and the crew's heroics against it. It's name the Star Trek/Babylon 5/Space 1999 episode time, and there's a lot there. The other inspiration is the Eurovision Song Contest, and this is the part I particularly enjoyed. It's relatively easy pickings to spoof Sci-Fi - so many have done it. But to combine this with spoofing something that is already a massive spoof, is quite unique.

The character of Logan, based affectionately on BBC 2 Radio Breakfast Time Terry Wogan, is the most memorable, and the funniest. David Tughan gives a creditable impersonation, and I wanted lots more of this kind of sarcastic comment. Nicky Newman is a spoof of the Pop Idol series that has swept the UK over the last year or so - but there's no Gareth or Will here. There's an enormous amount of obvious inspirations going on here though. Logan is the best, Newman probably the worst. I couldn't help but wonder what the Americans thought of all this song contest malarchy though. Very much a Euro phenomenon this song contest, I should think our friends across the Atlantic were totally bemused!

Larger than life characters don't come more larger than life than Angvia. Her relationship with the 7th Doctor is another delight of this story. Patricia Quinn throws herself in to the part with wild abandon. The scene in the restaurant where the Doctor finds somewhere comfortable he rarely goes, is "tears rolling down your face" hilarious. I just thought Angvia was brilliant throughout - a character larger than life - and very easy to relate with. It's a perfect spoof story character - the best one of the lot.

Squeaky aliens often pop up in DW drama. Jerry Pakhar (do they like cricket one wonders?) was the irritating rodent in this play. I didn't think this race, who I couldn't remember at all from the New Adventures, was that successful. I also didn't think a great deal of Graeme Garden's performance as Professor Fassbinder - too ordinary for the elaborate drama that was unfolding.

The leads are the best characters in Bang-Bang-a-Boom! though, and that's how it should be. Sylvester McCoy produces arguably his most manic performance as the Doctor. He hasn't translated as well to audio as the others, his pratfalls or brooding presence transferring not so well to just the ear. But here he seems more exuberant - and that was excellent. Bonnie Langford continues to change our views towards Mel. A character who was less than popular on TV, is becoming one of the most welcome companions on audio. Mel just seems the voice of reason amongst the triviality - another fine turn from Melanie Bush.

Bang-Bang-a-Boom! was an entertaining piece throughout. It had easily enough interesting characters to make up for the dull ones. It had a relatively easy story, holding the whole thing together. Whilst not being my favourite BF drama, it was still pretty good. Even though the excellent standard may drop a little at times, it is always ready to bounce back with something wonderful. A bit of rollercoaster ride this one. 7/10


Click-Click-A-Phut by Julian Shortman 11/3/03

It feels somewhat ironic that the biggest bang in Bang-Bang-A-Boom! occurs in the first ten minutes of the story. You see, Bang-Bang-A-Boom! has one major, crippling problem – it’s far too long. Consequently, the jokes are spread quite thinly, the plot takes some unnecessary turns that add nothing to the story (take the sub-plot concerning Mel’s tiff with Nicky Newman as one fine & pointless example), and many of the characters run out of gag-potential, becoming (sadly) dull. I confess I mentally breathed a sigh of relief when the final theme tune first kicked in, and although I giggled with the false ending gag, it failed to kick any life back into a story that had already died somewhere near the beginning of the third episode.

The concept of DW spoofing some other well-loved sci-fi shows was a good idea in principle – but it was too much to expect that there would be enough material to warrant a four-parter. As an appreciator of Deep Space 9, the first episode gave me many chuckles – and granted, there were some inspired spoofs. The ‘theme’ music with its fanfare melody mimicked DS9’s perfectly, and some of the supporting characters could have walked straight out of the same show. I loved the passing reference to Dark Space 8’s seven-year term of service being over, and the fun poked at the inevitable technobabble that comes with the Star Trek territory.

Perhaps the authors realised early on that there wouldn’t be enough to fill a four-parter when they decided to throw in the extra ingredients of poking fun at the Eurovision Song contest and Season 24. The song contest gags worked fairly well. For what it’s worth, I thought the Wogan impression was well done and it made me smile. However, I thought there was a lot more potential mileage to be had from the song gags. The Earth National Anthem was a nice touch, but then it felt like the authors had run out of steam and simply plumped for hoping we’d laugh at how bad the alien songs were rather than finding any humour in them… which leads me uncomfortably to the sticky issue of sending up Season 24.

To varying degrees, we’ve all had our laughs at Season 24. However, the problem with resurrecting goofs from epic flops such as Thyme and the Rani and Paradise Flowers is that it’s all too easy to fall into the trap of laughing at the new material rather than with it. At times, Bang-Bang-A-Boom! managed to avoid this - the fun poked at the Doctor’s misquoting of proverbs was well handled. However, at other times, we fell plump into the territory of having no reasonable option but to laugh at the new material. One cringe-inducing example of this was the horrendous scene where the Doctor proclaimed undying love to Angvia. And there I was, thinking we’d all learnt the lesson, that when injecting humour into DW we should laugh with it, not at it. (Incidentally I felt The One Doctor handled this issue perfectly.)

Star Trek episodes are usually 45-50 mins. long and I’ve been given to wondering if maybe Bang-Bang-A-Boom! might have benefited from copying that aspect of the Trek formula too. Of course the punters would have still wanted two CD’s for their money, but then the other disc could have featured a more trad. two-part DW story. I know many consider four episodes to be the quintessential DW story length, but I think there’s been enough exceptions to that rule (Black Orchid & Excelis Dawns spring to mind) to warrant BF pushing the envelope in that direction. I for one would welcome the variety of seeing a regular DW release featuring 2 two-part stories (or some such variation from the norm).

However, I can’t really finish this review without mentioning the huge kick I got from hearing the return of the authentic theme music. It’s embarrassing to admit how easily my sense of nostalgia can be stimulated, but I have to confess that listening to the ‘correct’ theme tune sent a tingle down my spine. On its own, I too prefer the 70’s version of the DW theme tune that BF previously used, but somehow it never seemed quite right to use it when introducing 5th, 6th & 7th Doctor adventures. Using the ‘correct’ theme tune adds that extra layer of authenticity when slotting stories into our TV chronology. And of course it poses an interesting query for the Virgin, Comic Strip and post-Survival stories… although perhaps there’s still room out there for some fresh variations on the ‘ol theme? I’d like to think so.


Madness! by Joe Ford 16/3/03

Ahem, how can I begin to describe Bang-Bang-a-Boom!? Okay here goes, it's not as funny as The One Doctor, it's not as clever as The One Doctor and it doesn't have the overwhelming feel good factor of The One Doctor. In short, this isn't The One Doctor and anybody who was expecting a repeat of last years triumph will be sorely disapointed.

However, this is still a complete riot continuing Big Finish's overwhelming succession of good audios (despite last months tedious Church and the Crown). It's a lot of fun in a goofish way and has enough twists, gags and events to keep you satisfied.

This is set during the overwhelmingly popular season 24 (for the benefit of my audience this is called sarcasm) and actually manages to capture (and spoof) some of that seasons traits. The music, for example is dramatic and overdone (just like Time and the Rani and Paradise Towers). The story is really silly full of daft ideas and whacky concepts (just like Time and the Rani and Paradise Towers). And top it all of the Doctor and his companion are goofish (that must be my new favourite word), OTT and laughably inept (just like... oh you get the picture!).

But to its merit Bang-Bang-a-Boom! is merely taking the mickey (in the nicest way of course) and having a lot of fun with it. Last year they took the piss out of The Weakest Link and DIY shows... this year it's Star Trek, the Eurovision song Contest and murder mysteries. They pull off the last one best with an extremely long list of suspects all with their own motives. Episode four is the best of all where the killer is revealed but not before we have gone through ALL the other suspects to discover why they're guilty... it's here the story reaches its laugh-a-minute peak and rightly so.

The Star Trek parody is fun to start with (especially the daft 'Station Log's') but things peter out after a while and the mystery is concentrated on. I did LOVE the continual references to Star Trek plots and their absurd technobabble! And the joke of the Doctor enjoying being the 'Commander' (with his uniform, bridge, ready-room and more!) more than the Doctor works so well!

McCoy is a bit of a two sided coin, he doesn't play comedy as well as Colin Baker but that doesn't mean the infectious fun he plays the Doctor with here isn't an absolute hoot. The funniest bit comes where the Doctor has to tell Mel that he has succumbed to Angvia's charms... his desperation is quite, quite hysterical! Bonnie continues here run of excellence and I'm glad to see we don't have to wait another year to hear more from her! Mels amazing leaps accusing just about everyone of the murders is very funny and her constant exclamaition of "He's DEAD!" works a treat.

Of the well drawn guest cast we have the wonderful Patricia Quinn who vamps it up big time as the busty Queen Angvia. Her unmistakable voice was perfect for this story and its hard not to think they cast her and then wrote the part. I really liked Gholos too and the twist about him makes earlier dialogue about him even funnier. Everybody throws themselves into the action with such gusto and Anthony Spargo (Nicky Newman), Sabrina Franklyn (Hardcourt... ooh how wude!) and Jane Goddard are especially good sports. The script brims with wit and the cast must have had a ball.

A good Christmas special albeit not quite what I was expecting... maybe that's not a bad thing as Big Finish seem to constantly defy my expectations. The last episode is a particular joy (oh wait until the 'end' music comes on!!!) and easily the best individual episode since ...ish, maybe even further than that.

Next up, Rob Shearman (of Chimes of Midnight), Colin and Maggie (oh I mean Doc 6 and Evelyn!) and DALEKS!!!!! Yipee!

Supplement, 19/10/04:

I don't know what precisely made me want to go back listen to this festive tale again but I'm sure glad I did because I was totally and utterly WRONG in my original review. There I commented that it was not as good as The One Doctor, the first audio by the pair who wrote this but optimistically went on to list many treats you were in store for if you slipped this CD into the player. What a tit I am.

To call this an embarrassing farce would be to give Will and Grace a bad name (and I DESPISE that show!). It is one of the shorter Big Finish stories but it felt as though it went on forever, stuck with some hideous writing, embarrassing performances a score that is totally inadequate.

Doctor Who is Doctor Who. Star Trek is Star Trek. I cannot see the point of Doctor Who attempting a parody of Star Trek accept to stick its fingers up at it and claim it is vastly superior. How bloody arrogant. Yes Star Trek can be repetitive and shallow at times but what writers Gareth Roberts and Clayton Hickman seem to forget is that it reached levels of sophisticated drama and riotous comedy with a much better success rate than Doctor Who. If there was a Star Trek episode that took the Doctor Who template and ripped it to pieces I should imagine fandom would be in uproar and frankly the Star Trek writers have better things to do than take the piss like genuine character drama and funny comedy. Nothing like this excuse for a script. Don't get me wrong I am a Doctor Who fan first and a Star Trek second but I just don't see the need to be this petty, it aint funny or clever (except perhaps the line about medieval Wales which made me chuckle). Maybe I just don't get-it.

It's not just the one joke parody that annoys; most of the characters are pretty sketchy and just about to serve a plot purpose. Nobody really sticks out from this crowd of entries from the Intergalactic Song Contest, there are handfuls of cliches, the Viking-esque Queen Angivia, the cute but thick Nicky Newman, the blobby ghestalt entity Gholos... they never seem to gel together, the characters or the performances and there are tons of stilted scenes of mis-matched actors spouting unfunny dialogue. In places the story is deeply embarrassing, scenes such as Angivia seducing the Doctor, Nicky moaning about his career (in a Robbie Williams sort of way), any scene with the squeaky voiced Geri Pakhar and her cheese obsession... it's almost as if Gareth and Clayton have had all their wit sucked out last year with The One Doctor and without the help of the mushroom cubes they just cannot write at all. If only the script was the worst problem...

There is a gag that is repeated three times in the story that will prove to you just how desperate the production is. Mel, jumping to conclusions left, right and centre and investigating with the desperately cute Nicky Newman stumbles across a body. Fine for dramatic purposes but because this is a comedy and is meant to slaughter every serious scene and reassemble as something HILARIOUS Mel tummy-ticklingly points out that the body is DEAD! And the story pauses for a DUM-DUM DUM! musical sting! Oh what a giggle! If only these three moments of staginess were the worst problem...

Bubbly Bonnie is always good for a laugh but here her every move is plagued by awful direction that makes her seem naive and utterly stupid. Admittedly this ties in perfectly with her character from the telly but The Fires of Vulcan had led me to believe she was heading for some sort of renaissance. The Doctor continually patronises her throughout the story, prompting her to figure out just who the murderer is and then shouting her down every time she tries to make a suggestion. Her theories get more and more elaborate and bizarre to the point that the writers just have her saying anyone... just so long as she has accused everyone in the script... because that is oh so funny... on the flimsiest of evidence. Oh groan. If only her bumbling detective skills were the productions worst problem...

Andy Hardwick, who has in other Big Finish productions written music that has tickled my toes, composes a truly ugly score for Bang-Bang-a-Boom that guts the story of much of its humour. Every gag is symbiotically linked with a snatch of comedy music, which highlights the fact that the story is supposed to be funny! Like we wouldn't get it on our own... aside from Mel's cliffhanging "He's dead!" DUM-DUM-DUM!!!! there are some similarly cringe-inducing moments... the piano tinkling when Angvia asks if anyone liked her singing, the mock Star Trek intro music that plagues the whole story... highlighting each gag so obviously reveals a director who doesn't trust his script enough. Still the irritating music isn't the production's worst problem...

The Doctor is seduced in this story. I can see you all melting in your seats in embarrassment and that is the ideal reaction to this huge mistake that should never, ever be repeated, or not if it is going to be treated with such heavy handedness. The sixth Doctor was similarly affected in The Wormery and yet I had no real issues with that because the script dealt with the idea sensitively and Colin Baker plays it with a degree of restraint. If Alistair McGowen did a Doctor Who sketch I would imagine it would be very much like this, the Doctor sucking in the romance inducing BO of an alien Valkerie and smothering his face in her bosoms. And then proceeding to tell his trusty assistant of his foul deeds in an innuendo-filled conversation ("You know the things I do... the things I never do..."). Never would I expect to take such garbage seriously as a "real" Doctor Who story. The whole sorry plot doesn't raise a single laugh and the story reaches new levels of awfulness when we realise Doctor Harcourt is jealous of their finagling, with the Doctor having to break it off with his "love", leaving Angvia tearful screaming after her "Little Man!" (Shakes head with despair). You and I both hope that is the worst thing about the story but there are still a few more treats in store...

Doctor Eleanor Hardcourt... if only she lived up to her kinky name instead of being one of the most boring characters ever. The cod American accent is pretty awful, her constant overdone references to old Star Trek plots is predictable and her "station log"s provide the story with some momentum grinding moment of tedium. The worst insult is the hilarious revelation that she is not actually a Doctor at all but merely stowed away aboard Dark Space Eight and pretended to be one. Um, is this supposed to be a revelation? The woman's as thick as shit! I just wish she could have been the first victim is all... I just feel so... so... helpless! We're approaching the end now, reaching the pinnacle of the unpleasantness that is Bang-Bang-a-Boom!...

One of the twists is genuinely audacious... to trick the listener into thinking it is just a Song Contest when the real purpose of the singing is a smoke screen for the peace conference that is actually taking place is pretty darn clever. Unfortunately it is the only real shock in the story and it comes at the end of the third episode leaving the fourth pretty redundant. Loosely is the killer? Figured that. Angvia was framed. Yep that too. Nicky is the means to destroy the station... signposted painfully in episode two! The climax to the story is just another twenty-five minutes of painful comedy. Here we are... thanks to your patience in what is my harshest rant in a good while, I can finally reveal the most monstrous element of this story, the reason you should hope that somehow a parallel universe merges with us and accidentally wipes Bang-Bang-a-Boom! out with it...

Sylvester bloody McCoy. He was tolerable on the telly because for every Time and the Rani there was a Ghost Light where he shocked and terrified the viewer but his performances in these audios has rocketed downhill painfully fast, leaving me wondering how anyone can take him seriously as the Doctor anymore. The seventh Doctor is absurdly popular but with stories like this I find it hard to credit why... he wanders through the story without a care in the world, more interested in his shiny communicator than the murders that are happening every five minutes, falling in love with BO ridden buxom babes, insulting his companion and sounding pretty bored with the whole affair. Maybe if McCoy put some effort in his performance it would work but it sounds as though he was rushed in the studio, had the script thrust in his hands and told he only had ten minutes to get through it all. He rushes, trips up, babbles and shrieks hysterically... I realise this is a comedy and everyone is supposed to be having a good time but there is little difference between his efforts here and in The Rapture.

Okay rant over. It's not quite the worst ever Big Finish production, the story I mentioned in the last sentence takes that honour but it's still pretty bad. Instead of offering yuletide fun it's a long, painful farce that highlights all the problems that were due to emerge in the next year.


A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 7/9/04

Bang-Bang-A-Boom! is great fun evoking the essence of season twenty four and poking fun at the Eurovision Song Contest and the likes of DS9 along the way. Much of the story`s success comes from the fact that the humour is less intentional, and actually fowards the plot and as such it comes across as easy listening. It is in the cast that the tale really comes alive however, Sylvester McCoy captures the bumbling aspects of his early persona whilst Bonnie Langford is a joy as Mel.

The guest cast are also standout, Sabina Franklyn excellent as the misguided Dr. Harcourt and former Goodie Graeme Garden is understated as Science Officier Professor Fasbinder. Most enjoyable is Patricia Quinn as the smouldering Angvia, a woman who claims no man can resist her; thus the scenes with the Doctor and her are a delight. Similairly Anthony Spargo as the "Popstars" wannabe develops a great rapport with Mel. Bang-Bang-A-Boom! will never win any awards for originality but the scripts are strong enough to keep the story moving at a great pace and thus the story achieves what it set out to do; it entertains.


A Review by Ron Mallett 5/7/07

If you're looking for a good old-fashioned, light-hearted romp, then this is definitely the story for you. I really am very fond of this story; let me tell you why.

Gareth Roberts and Clayton Hickman have put together a script for this production that is both highly entertaining and original. This production clearly falls into a phase where the Big Finish crew have started to push the boundaries of exactly what can constitute a Who tale (and still be Who unlike the new TV series) and what a sci-fi audio drama could deliver.

That is not to say this story isn't without its flaws: the episodes are a tad long, the plot at times overly convoluted and some of the performances are questionable. Still, this production is well worth a $30-plus investment, regardless of whether one is a fan of the McCoy era.

Sylvester McCoy's performance, for instance, is very uneven. He seems to shift between the lighter interpretation of his first season with the darker interpretation of his second and third seasons. Bonnie Langford is brilliant, however, as Mel, providing some well-balanced normality that the listener can relate to. Together, McCoy and Langford are supported well by some excellent performers, including the legendary Graeme Garden (of The Goodies). Although I have to say that Patricia Quinn's performance as Angvia becomes grating by the fourth instalment, she's almost like a celestial Zsa Zsa Gabor. The most compelling performance must be David Tughan's Logan (ie. Terry Wogan). That one is spot on the money.

The idea of setting a Who story amidst a stellar version of the Eurovision Song Contest, is indeed a novel one. The combination of McCoy and Langford seems to be best served with a light-hearted story, yet with a dark underbelly. It certainly worked with Baker and Langford in The One Doctor, also written by this team, although this story seems more self-consciously comedic.

I feel the Peladon stories (The Curse of Peladon and The Monster of Peladon) of the Pertwee TV era, were probably another source of inspiration. Jan Goddard's Geri is very similar to Alpha Centauri. There are lots of general conceptual parallels as well, as those stories worked on the basis of the dynamics of bringing a diverse set of characters together and allowing the sparks to fly.

The humour is almost Pythonesque at times, although it is never really overdone. The attempted seduction of the Doctor is hilarious to the extreme and there are some classic lines. The Doctor's lines, "This is the denouncement" and I'll take as long as I like!", are excellent examples. Classic stuff.

There is a surreal element to the production that might alienate the extreme purists though. I think it needs to be kept in mind that this was clearly a stylistic decision and it was one that prevents this story falling into the straightforward "whodunnit" vein that Terror of the Vervoids falls into. There are all the traditional red herrings that are demanded of a story of this type, but it is the humour and energy of the performances that sets this story apart.

So this one is strongly recommended. One you're quite likely to revisit every now and again and that must be the biggest tribute of all.


A Review by Brian May 1/9/08

Bang-Bang-A-Boom! is hilarious, no doubt about that. It's Doctor Who at its funniest, a wonderfully witty romp that never crosses the wrong side of camp, nor does it push the boundaries of absurdity. Its release date makes it the Big Finish equivalent of a Christmas pantomime, and you couldn't get a more suitable story.

Essentially, it's a gentle satire with two main targets: the Eurovision Song Contest and American science fiction. There is lampooning aplenty, but no savage ridiculing. In the case of the latter target, the po-faced earnestness and almost ingenuous lack of irony are respectfully lambasted - with Star Trek in particular singled out what with the personal logs, phasers, ready rooms and the wonderful parody of the series' music among the countless examples. Nowhere is the humour overstated, nor does it get too repetitive; a case in point is the accidental activation of the red alert button. It occurs twice, and both times it's side-splittingly funny, but had it happened again it would have been tiresome. Each and every joke works to perfect effect, from the self-referential (Dr Fassbinder's hilarious technobabble death speech, the continuity announcements, many nods to corridors and plastic overalls) to the shamelessly slapstick (Angvia's attempted seduction of the Doctor is worth quite a few belly-laughs). Even the mention of the Drahvins isn't overindulgent; to those in the know it's a reference to past Who; to the uninitiated it's just another bizarre entry in the long line of contestants.

As with the Colin Baker era, Big Finish has given us some retroactive hope for a troubled chapter of the classic series. Bang-Bang-A-Boom! would have slotted nicely into season 24, but it's a damn sight better than any of that year's stories, leaving us with more what-could-have-been thoughts. As in other audios, Bonnie Langford is excellent, with Mel written with the actor's strengths in mind, and as though the writer actually gives a damn about the character! The rest of the cast are uniformly excellent - Sabina Franklyn and Graeme Garden are fantastic - while Sylvester McCoy plays to the strengths of the early seventh Doctor. Strindberg is underused in the first two episodes, but when he takes over the commentary for the song contest he breaks out into a wonderful character; both his initial hesitation and subsequent gusto add to the already ample pantheon of laughs.

A few things don't work. The Agatha Christie "suspects gathered together" denouement in the final episode is just bland; what little humour there is expires very quickly, making it one pastiche too many. This whole episode is overlong, failing to hold the interest, what with Eleanor's confession and the bomb inside Nicky. But the inevitable finale, the seventh Doctor saving the day by goofing it, is worth the wait. Overall this is a wonderful slice of fun, played to near perfection by a great cast with excellent comic timing and a knowing, tongue-in-cheek self-effacement. It reminds us, in case we needed reminding, that Doctor Who is vastly superior to its fellow sci-fi programmes, especially its trans-Atlantic neighbours. And it knows it. It doesn't brag, doesn't shout it out loud, but just implies it cleverly and enjoys itself along the way. 8.5/10