|Running time||60 minutes|
|Starring Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant, Peter Davison, Sylvester McCoy and Jon Pertwee|
Also featuring Alan Cumming, Michael Wisher, Heather Barker, Bernadette
Gepheart, Nicholas Briggs, Quentin Rayner, Emma Hill and Gary Russell
|Synopsis: An environmental catastrophe looms. Toxic Air Alerts are ever more frequent and disturbing changes in the climate seem irreversible. The government's latest solution has been to hire the services of the AirZone Corporation. But why is the situation not improving? Cuddly TV weatherman Arnold Davies does not concern himself with such weighty issues. However, unbeknown to him, an ancient power is about to turn his cosy life upside-down and pitch him into a struggle to preserve the Earth itself.|
A Review by Richard Radcliffe 10/12/02
Of all the Spin-offs that exist this is the one that has to be the most impressive in its cast's Doctor Who connections. No less than 4 Doctors appear. Combine this with 1 ex-companion, 1 ex-villain and some highly familiar faces - and you have a production that postively glows with its DW heritage. The interesting thing is then that this is not really like Doctor Who at all! The faces are familiar, but this is a political thriller. Its concerns are the environment. It's not science fiction at all, but science fact. Those expecting fantasy should avoid it, those wanting great drama should embrace it.
But this is a Doctor Who spin-off. It will be bought by those who loved Doctor Who, and because it's got so many stars of that series within it. It's interesting to see the different characters they play, and how they interplay with one another.
The star of the show is definitely Colin Baker, and he excels throughout. As weatherman Arnie Davies his is the character with the most humour, and ultimately the one who saves the day. The 3 other ex-Doctors all have big parts to play but it is Colin Baker who is the leading light. Peter Davison plays Al Dunbar, roving reporter who gets in too deep. Sylvester McCoy plays Anthony Stanwick, an eco campaigner who hides in shadows for fear of reprisal from the powers that be. Jon Pertwee, a last minute addition, is the shadowy Watcher-like character - Oliver Trethewey, Al's Mentor and something of a mystery.
We mustn't forget the rest though. Nicola Bryant has plenty to do as Arnies partner and presenter, Elenya Brown (she seems stuck with that sirname!). Michael Wisher appears as the MP watching over Airzone. Nicholas Briggs is the TV Producer in charge of Arnie and Elenya. Alan Cumming (recently rumoured to be the next Doctor) is Airzone's troubleshooter. Heather Barker is the only non-DW connection of the main cast - she's Airzone's Director.
Most of the cast are perfect for their parts. Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant show their ease with one another - they were never this close before! The love scenes have been made a bit of a fuss over, but they are very mild - I'm even more jealous of Colin Baker now though, what a lucky man he is! Peter Davison dressed normally reminds me of At Home With the Braithwaites, but thankfully his accent is different, and there are not too many swear words in this script (there are one or two though). Sylvester McCoy is remarkably still for him, but as a moody eco-eccentric he works well. Jon Pertwee gets to wear a Tom Baker style hat - he is less effective than the others - but it is a smaller part. It's quite weird really seeing Pertwee let others take the limelight, he doesn't make the best shadow, he's so noticeable and dominant. A special mention must be made too of Nick Briggs' bearded angry TV Producer - he takes stress management to a different level - he's a good actor and is rightly in a lot of these spin-offs.
The story by Nick Briggs is a good one. The environmental concerns that dominated the 90s are given an air, and form the core of the script. He creates excellent parts for his stellar cast, and with realistic yet interesting dialogue, makes the play come alive. If anything the script is a little too serious, but then the subject matter is no laughing matter I suppose. Bill Baggs is an assured Director, and he is good again throughout combining inside and outside work well - there's plenty of movement, and plenty of places used in the hour-long drama. The music by Alistair Lock is appropriate, nothing spectacular, just complementing the action nicely.
The Airzone Solution is well worth your time. It's fascinating to see so many actors from Doctor Who in 1 place, and they really prove their acting mettle too. The story is good, and has enough intrigue and science in there to please most people. The whole thing is highly professional, well thought out and entertaining. Another very good spin-off. 8/10
A Taut, Low-Budget Thriller by Matthew Kresal 26/9/08
In 1993, BBV gathered four of the living actors who had played the title character on the BBC's classic science fiction series Doctor Who together for a special film. But instead of getting Jon Pertwee, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, and Sylvester McCoy to reprise their respective Doctors, BBV produced something completely different. Not a Doctor Who story, but a low-budget environmental thriller that gave each actor a chance to show something different.
Colin Baker is TV weatherman Arnold "Archie" Davies. In the role, Baker shows off an almost perfect blending of comedic and dramatic abilities as he goes from lowly weatherman to environmental crusader. Baker proves once and for all that he is more than just the colorful-jester version of the Doctor. He is a serious actor with some serious ability. Baker isn't the only one to step out from his shadow, though. McCoy plays the tireless activist/reluctant ally to Davies and shows off his ability to convince anyone of strange things being real. Davison, who plays reporter Al Dunbar whose ghostly appearances send Davies on his quest, shows off a more serious and frustrated side of his acting abilities. Last, but not least, is Jon Pertwee, who pops in every so often to give commentary and words of wisdom as Dunbar's mysterious mentor. Each proves to be more than just the Doctor of their respective TV eras.
The supporting cast is just as good. Both Nicola Bryant (fifth/sixth Doctor companion Peri) and Michael Wisher (Davros in Genesis of the Daleks) step out of their shadows from the series to bring to life two curious characters who push the story along. The former Doctors are further supported by the venomous performances of Bernadette Gepheart and Alan Cumming. Rounding out the cast is Nicholas Briggs (who now does voices for the series) as Sam Flint, the news editor with divided loyalties. The cast is certainly a mix but they add strength to the production.
Considering the low budget nature and short length (around an hour) of The Airzone Solution, it is still quite effective. From the opening shots of Dunbar's documentary to the climatic scene at the trade convention, writer Nicholas Briggs and director Bill Baggs keep up the tension and audience interest. If there is a big fault in the film, it's the low budget. While the film is set in the near-future there's enough to date the film to the early 1990's. Mostly it is the technology, such as the old computers and floppy disks that look ancient just fifteen years after the film was made. A story like this requires depth, certainly more than the film's low budget could give.
Yet, despite the low budget, the film still works. From the script and direction to the actors, this film proves that low budgets can't weigh down a good story under good circumstances. While I'm sure there will be some fans who might be disappointed in not seeing their favorite Doctors in action, they can enjoy something different. They can enjoy a taut, low-budget thriller that beats most Hollywood movies.