THE DOCTOR WHO RATINGS GUIDE: BY FANS, FOR FANS

Big Finish Productions
The One Doctor

Written by Lance Parkin Cover image
Format Compact Disc
Released 2001
Continuity Between Trial of a Time Lord
and Time and the Rani

Starring Colin Baker and Bonnie Langford
Also featuring Christopher Biggins, Claire Buckfield, Nicholas Pegg, Jane Goddard, Stephen Fewell, Adam Buxton, Matt Lucas

Synopsis: When the evil Skelloids launch an attack upon the seventeen worlds of the Generios system, its peace-loving inhabitants face total destruction. So it's fortunate that the famous traveller in time and space known only as the Doctor is in the area, and doubly lucky that, with the help of his pretty young assistant, Sally-Anne, he manages to defeat the deadly creatures and save the day.


Reviews

A Review by Richard Radcliffe 14/1/02

We are promised the most comedic story in Doctor Who's illustrious history. What we get is a Christmas pantomime of Doctor Who. And that is NOT an insult. I like pantomimes – my own father featured in many at the local amateur dramatic society. He even directed quite a few, I am fully conversant with the genre and I like it a lot. Pantomimes can be the funniest and most entertaining format for telling a story. They are not always brilliant, but they have a long worthwhile tradition.

The success or failure of a production is largely dependent on the characters that tread the boards. Are they funny enough is usually the sole criteria of this. Our favourites when the “Who's Best” parade emerges at the end are always the cheeky narrator Buttons, and the 2 clowns that lead us in a chorus of Agadoo. There are other considerations too though in Pantomime. Are the costumes colourful enough, are the Tiny Tots as cute and disorganized as usual, are there plenty of one-liners that have you chortling in the aisles.

The One Doctor is a Pantomime, and it’s a darn good one too. The most colourful Doctor, with the most bizarre appearance is a fitting star for such a production. Bonnie Langford has done a fair few turns on the stage too – companion Mel fits in nicely. Bring in one of the best Dames in the business – Christopher Biggins, ably accompanied by a cheeky – but no doubt pretty – assistant. Throw in lots of wacky creations and you have your cast.

Gareth Roberts and Clayton Hickman are the writers of this fun-packed pantomime. The first showed his credentials for such a piece with the wonderfully over the top Plotters Missing Adventure book. The latter is the new editor of DWM, what that says I don't know! They bring a script that is brimming with great one-liners, side-swipes about the Doctor's physique, funny references to the DW legend. It is an hilarious piece of work with most of the jokes hitting their mark.

The cast are equal to this tomfoolery. Colin Baker has never been funnier. This Doctor has become one of the very best thanks to his performances in the Big Finish series. Christopher Biggins is the other star of the piece as the other Doctor. He is nowhere near as camp as I expected, and I was grateful for that. He is the Delboy type character for the Doctor Who universe. Creating alien threats which he knocks on the head, and impersonating the Doctor to his own ends. The swapping of companions half-way through is a great way of keeping the interest alive. Sally-Ann is played with a great deal of comedy, but charm. Bonnie Langford follows her excellent performance in Fires of Vulcan with another good turn – she, like Colin Baker, has come of age in these audio dramas.

This story is about the interplay with these 4 characters. There is time for a few cameos: the Jelloid Creature is wonderfully repulsive, providing a huge amount of slime, but also the funniest bit (the delivery service). The great entity in the sky makes his mark too, particularly his obsession with strange time denominators. The “Weakest Link” spoof is pretty funny too. But there are too many jokes to list here, and I deliberately make them vague here so as not to spoil their impact.

The One Doctor is also enhanced by 2 very nice little pieces at the start and the end. The first opens proceedings in Episode 1, but the next is about 5 minutes after the story finishes – make sure you listen to it. Very Feast of Stevenish.

The whole production is not flawless – not all the jokes work, but most of them do. Released just before Christmas it is the perfect start to the frivolity of that season. I am struggling to think of anything Doctor Who has ever done which is this funny. 9/10


The One Joke? by Julian Shortman 18/1/02

Big Finish throws itself in to the Christmas Panto season in this story, with a pile of gusto and enthusiasm (yes, the title was just a cheap gibe, I actually quite enjoyed this one). With minimal straight acting, silly theme tunes, rip-taking of the show's conventions every other minute and even a friendly wave to The Feast of Steven tagged on at the end, this came across as a bit of a wild experiment. And did it work? Well... I guess that depends hugely upon your sense of humour - as the whole thing really stands or falls on how many giggles you get out of it.

As someone who painfully cringed their way through Season 24 and other moments in the late 80's when Doctor Who tried on slapstick humour for size, I feel instinctively wary of "humourous" Doctor Whos (although when it's handled well it can be fantastic - my favourite BF audio so far is The Holy Terror and my favourite TV story is City of Death). I found it relatively easy to slip comfortably into this story because there was no sense that any of the actors were trying to take it seriously. What still jars for me about magnificent flops like Delta and the Bannermen is the smattering of actors who try to add a modicum of seriousness to the proceedings whilst the stars are behaving like clowns (the character of Delta is a classic example of this). For The One Doctor however, Big Finish chose to go for a full comedy production with a full comedy cast. No one pretends it could be taken seriously, or even hints that the storyline should be pondered over. On many occasions you can sense they're having a great laugh sending up the show and larking about. Continuity buffs are also sent up nicely here with plenty of "The largest... in the universe.", "The oldest - in the universe", as throw away lines.

Colin is well suited to this comedy style (my esteem of his Doctor rises with every audio) and a lot of his banter with Christopher Biggins is well timed. The rest of the supporting cast are fine (I could almost believe that BF had cast Anne Robinson!), although I'd particularly lift my hat off to Matt (George Dawes) Lucas for giving me a pile of chuckles as the Jelloid waiting 40 million years for his new stereo system to be delivered.

I'd like to profer one word of warning to Big Finish about doing this kind of Who story. This story was a good laugh (with a good smattering of toilet humour), and I think it can reasonably be regarded as a success. But I'd be wary about attempting a repeat of this experiment too soon. With only twelve stories a year, it would seem a shame to fall into a pattern of doing an annual Christmas Panto story. I can't see myself returning to laugh again and again at this audio - it was fun once, but it also felt disposable (quite similar infact to how I felt after watching The Curse of Fatal Death). I'd be unlikely to buy another "comedy" Who from BF - we all enjoy seeing the show sent up from time to time, but I can't see myself running to enjoy it ritually once a year. I guess this thought partly arises from having heard recent news of another comedy planned for next December... and featuring Bonnie Langford again? I know she's a companion we love to laugh at (2nd place to Adric of course), but The Fires of Vulcan showed she could be used well in a more serious role, and I for one would prefer to see her given the chance to do something a little straighter next time round.

Finally, a positive comment on the cover - it was refreshing to see one that showed an additional character (rather than just the Doctor & relevant companion - although I hope we get to see India Fisher on some of the new 8th Doctor adventure covers - please!). Adding other prominent characters in costume helps to make the covers look genuinely original, rather than clever composites from a DW image archive.


A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 21/1/02

Doctor Who hasn`t always succeeded when it ventures into comedy, but The One Doctor manages to right this wrong. Christopher Biggins and the girl from 2Point4 Children (Claire Buckfield) are pretending to be The Doctor and his companion. Naturally the real Doctor is a bit miffed at this.

Gareth Roberts and Clayton Hickman turn out a script that is ideal for the festive season, is very refreshing and gives the chance for the entire cast to come alive. Pastiche is a word that springs to mind here, whether it be the bickering between The Doctor and Biggins` Banto Zame to The Weakest Link and Changing Rooms sendups; better still everything works and works well.

In summary The One Doctor is self aware and possibly the funniest Doctor Who the series has boasted and if Big Finish intend to release a comedy every December, here`s hoping the format remains fresh.


Here we go another voyage around the English language! by Joe Ford

Comedy in Doctor Who is two sided coin, either it suceeds admirably (Carnival of Monsters, The Pirate Planet, City of Death) or it falls flat on its face (The Romans, Nightmare of Eden). And given the short lived relationship between The 6th Doctor and Mel I thought wasting this rare chance to show how GOOD they can be on a comedy a supreme waste of time.

That was until I heard the first four lines....and I fell in love with The One Doctor! Oh Colin, Colin, Colin... you were a breath of fresh air when you replaced that wet fish Davison and now with some quality scripts you have emerged as my favourite Doctor of all time. Honesty! I eagerly await the Colin Baker audios, call me an imbecile but I feel the scripts are better, the production standards higher and they're just all round more entertaining!

What a wonderful premise, a fake Doctor and companion staging an alien invasion and defeating it and claiming the prize, it's as fresh and original as the show itself.

At first it's the details that made me roar with laughter, the STARDIS, looking and sounding like a porta-loo, the psychic screwdriver, the fake Doctor's fake insistance that he WON'T take any money, his marvellous ploy that the real Doctor and Mel are over eager fans, "Doctor what were you thinking when you took on the deadly dustbins!"....I could go on, there are reams and reams of priceless lines in this magnificent script.

Banto Zame is a first rate charcter and brought to life with fabulous gusto by the wonderful Christopher Biggins. His scenes with Colin Baker were absolutely the highlight of this adventure. Two giant egos and only one TARDIS, the chemistry they share is quite hysterical. And lets not forget the wonderful Clare Buckfield as Sally Anne and her bitch fight with Mel over whose the better companion!

Which of course leaves Bubbly Bonnie.... I was so impressed with her portrayl of Mel in The Fires of Vulcan I was almost prepared to forgive season Twenty Four. Now I'm convinced it was the scripts back then because this Mel is one foxy lady! Trapped between the towering ego's of two Doctors, Bonnie really does shine, playing up her image as a good time girl and sounding like she's having a ball. In fact all the cast seem to be having such a laugh with this gag-a-minute script it's quite infectiuos!

The story itself is highly amusing, from it's piss take of The Weakest Link to the DIY obsessed 'assemblers' and the stupid but funny final twist it's a roller coaster ride of fun you wont want to get off!

What I think is especially good is how much it pokes fun at the show and especially The Doctor and Mel but it does it affectionately so, whilst all the while showing you how wondefully well they work.

Sod the others, bring on the next Colin C.D.! Top dialogue:

Mel: The Doctor always says I have a memory like an elephant, it's a running joke we share.
Banto: Oh I bet the hours just fly by!

Banto: Still good job you're wearing that coat, now nobody has to point it looks as somebody's been sick over it!

Banto: (to the Doctor) Igno-what? Talking to you is like arguing to a thesaurus!

(And the Mel's 'Bushes never give up speech' which made me wet myself!)


A Review by Rob Matthews 7/3/02

When I reviewed Shadow of the Scourge some months back, so euphoric was I that rashly claimed I probably wouldn't listen to any more of the Big Finish dramas, I had already found one that was perfect.

Fortunately for me, I'm a big fat liar. That would be like refusing to watch City of Death because Ghost Light was so good. Besides, I re-watched the Colin Baker era again recently and was reminded of just how bloody good he actually was, so...

Baker had a flair for two things in particular - dramatic confrontation and comedy. His two seasons allowed him a reasonable smattering of the former, but only the odd hint of the latter. Besides which, Doctor Who the TV series never did another full-blown comedy after City of Death. And even that was not as wholly frothy as it's often thought to be.

There's something a bit melancholy about these audio dramas, you know. A recreation, using the original actors, of what should have been rather than what was. You kind of regret that this wasn't a TV story, in place of Terror of the Vervoids, Time & the Rani or some such crap.

Nevertheless, it's great. Had it been a televised adventure it would easily have usurped City of Death in terms of laughs per minute. An intergalactic con man posing as the Doctor isn't a particularly original idea (and isn't the cover blurb awfully remisicent of that on Head Games?), but it doesn't need to be, because this is essentially about having a laugh with what's already familiar about the show. It's a comedy version of a basic quest narrative.

Well, all you need to know apart from that is that its very funny. Plus it does justice to Colin Baker's Doctor. People deride him as a know-it-all but here his pomposity is utterly loveable. Listen to how genuinely offended he sounds when Banto makes fun of his coat... aww, bless.

A lot of people like Mel's 'Bushes never give up' speech. I actually found that bit too contrived, in that I knew there was a punchline on the way. IMO the laughs work better when you're not expecting them. Personally, my favourite bit is the Doctor's praising the Jelloid for eating him. That's the Doctor down to a T, that is.

Christopher Biggins was superb - who would have expected something featuring both him and the dreaded Bonnie Langford to be so good? -, and Clare Buckfield was wonderful, going at her lines with gusto and perfectly capturing the character as written.

This is comedy Sixth Doctor and its perfect, a real polished production too, with no rough edges.


Not a model for the future by Antony Tomlinson 30/7/03

The One Doctor is funny - make no mistake about that. There are some hilarious monsters, the set-up is pretty clever and the performances of both the leads and the guests are first class. It is also another chance to reassess both Bonnie Langford and the character of Mel - and both come out of this looking brilliant.

However, the praise heaped upon this story is rather disturbing. Anyone would think that this tale was the masterpiece that Doctor Who fans have always been waiting for, rather than a fairly competent Douglas Adams rip-off.

I think that the level of excitement surrounding this story (as with The Curse of Fatal Death) is perhaps indicative of a keenness of fans to show that they can now laugh at themselves. This is fine - after the self-importance of the New Adventures, and the geekiness of Dimensions in Time and bits of The TV Movie, the need for self-mockery remains. However, it is madness to compare this run-around with genuinely thoughtful tales such as The Holy Terror or The Marian Conspiracy. The One Doctor is fun, but let's not go mad - it is not the kind of story we want to see repeated over and over again.

I also have to admit that I have a bit of a problem with the rather parochial outlook of The One Doctor. In my mind, I always think of Doctor Who as a series that should be able to appeal to anyone, whatever their background. Indeed, this is a view that Sydney Newman himself subscribed to with his vision of TV as "theatre for the people". Thus, all manner of individuals across Britain and across the world (both English speaking and not - see The Hartnell Years) were able to enjoy televised Doctor Who when it was first broadcast.

The One Doctor, on the other hand, is a story very much locked in the perspectives of middle-class Britain. The jokes in the story relate entirely to the concerns of that group: the trials of awaiting delivery men, the tribulations of constructing flat-packed furniture, the concern that the masses are becoming increasingly "vulgar" (as they were not, of course, in 'past times') and the fear that the nation is unable to defend itself from foreign invasion.

And naturally, the biggest concern of any conservative, British, middle-class family is that some oily, cockney-accented con-man with a promiscuous working-class girlfriend will come along and fool them out of their wealth by pretending to be "well-mannered" and "properly-spoken".

Perhaps it is too much to expect Big Finish to stick to the notion of a series that can appeal to all (given that they only really sell their products to Doctor Who fans anyway). But I think it is a good doctrine to aspire to. And, whatever happens, I do not think the historical fact that the series appeals to a small, politically identifiable group is anything to celebrate.

In 1963, Sydney Newman declared that "I am proud that I played some part in the recognition that the working man was a fit subject for drama, and not just a comic foil in middle-class manners." I wonder what he would say after listening to The One Doctor?


A Review by John Seavey 28/3/04

It's not really a laugh riot... more sort of a comfortable smile-raiser. There's a lot of reliance on winking asides to the series' history and to pop culture as a whole, and very little that will openly crack you up. But Colin Baker and Christopher Biggins have great chemistry as dueling Doctors, and it's the sort of thing that loses very little humor due to over-familiarity, as most of the humor relies on familiarity to begin with. A bit like a comfortable faded sweater.


A Review by Ron Mallett 16/4/07

Having just ordered my first Big Finish Audio, I'm more than glad I took the plunge and decided on choosing what is regarded by many as one of the very finest productions, The One Doctor. This story features Colin Baker and Bonnie Langford in the lead roles, proving once and for all, what a combination they could have been if they had been given the opportunity and good scripts! They are joined in this all-out cosmic space romp by a couple of imposters played by Christopher Biggins and Clare Buckfield.

Written by Gareth Roberts and Clayton Hickman, this is an adventure that utilizes a gentle brand of self-mockery that endeared Doctor Who to millions of fans in the seventies. The is still a compelling story despite elements of satire and the production is helped by the fact that, while the script is obviously Adamsesque in places, the actors play their roles straight. The comedy is all to be found in their situations.

My favourite elements were the badly researched fake TARDIS which was given the shape of a portaloo (wait till you hear the dematerialisation sound) and the 'Superbrain' contest which is an accurate play on The Weakest Link. Buckfield's alternative companion with the strong libido is also a scream. It's a well-structured story, the episode cliffhangers all being very traditionally engaging. To be honest I think in relation to production values (incidental music, direction etc), it puts anything that was broadcast on TV in season 24 to shame! It proves that Doctor Who is just as suited to the audio medium as television.

As a whole, it refrains from being silly and contradictory like Saward's Slipback, and will take it's place I'm sure, amongst the best remembered adventures to feature the 6th Doctor.