The Doctor Who Ratings Guide: By Fans, For Fans


Episodes Dates
6 (ten minutes each) 7/25/85-8/8/85

Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant. Written by Eric Saward. Produced by Paul Spencer.


One of the better Colin stories-- only joking! by Tom May 26/2/98

"This isn't the time to play the fool!"

I've had this audio escapade of the Sixth Doctor's for at least eight years and recently, I decided to contemplate it in a review. There are six rather short instalments and on the whole it's disposeable but amusing. Indeed, far more review friendly than The Trial of a Time Lord. The story is slightly influenced by the books of Douglas Adams, which is surprising considering the fact that arch-villain of mid-80's Doctor Who, Eric Saward. One can only think that if Adams had penned this, it may have been good.

Colin Baker is convincing and likeable here as the Doctor, as is Nicola Bryant as the charming Peri-- She is nicer here than in some T.V. stories, where Peri should've had wit rather than selfishness.

Having said all that there is much absurdity to hear here- the cliffhangers give a new meaning to melodrama in Doctor Who: "Run, Peri! Run!" etc. Also, you have a rather sad squeeky American-accented computer, a Shellingbourne Grant, two hapless detectives, a whinging "Drone" (Android) who thinks he's a butler and an ill, mad captain of the spaceship, who is "rather partial to Earth Women!"

The late Valentine Dyall perfectly voices captain Slarn, and it has to be said the real threat to the Doctor in this facade, The Computer, is best ignored. An oddly likeable, almost Comic-Strip farce, that, for it's humour, I would recommend more highly than the more recent Radio adventures. In terms of it's validity as a Doctor Who adventure, why not? After all, it isn't boring and is comfortably better than The Twin Dilemma or Mindwarp. 5/10

A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 27/11/98

Featuring the Sixth Doctor and Peri and broadcast between Seasons twenty-two and twenty-three, Slipback would have benefited from being four twenty five minute episodes instead of six ten minute episodes, especially as it was supposed to bridge the gap between seasons. A lot of the storys success can be indirectly attributed to Douglas Adams, especially where the humour is derived from. Some of the characters are amusing, Valentine Dyall's Captain; some are annoying, the Computer; and some are forgettable, the Android.

For the most part, Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant are on fine form here, although Baker does go a little over the top at times; but given the character of the Sixth Doctor.... Unfortunately the storyline and its conclusion contradict the events of Terminus, and some of the cliffhangers should have been left hanging up. Add to this some simple but convincing visual effects, and you have an enjoyable, amusing yarn.

A Review by Graeme Burk 21/3/00

Is it still de rigeur in fandom to not like Eric Saward? I can never keep up with these things. I know some authors (whom shall remain nameless) have over the past ten years built up a case that Saward exemplifies all that went wrong with Doctor Who in the 1980s. But the trouble is, the lines on this debate change with great regularity.

Personally, I've always had a soft spot for Saward. Admittedly, as a script editor he got increasingly disinterested in the series and became (proportionately) excessive in with shock, violence and cynicism as time went on (he should have resigned after season 21). He can't write for the Doctor for toffee either. But Saward always wrote stories with lively pacing, great, if acerbic, characterisation, and some of the best smart-ass villains in the series history. I loved his TV episodes, and loved his novelisations even more, particularly the more he did Douglas Adams pastiche.

Slipback is an impressive demonstration of all that was great and terrible about Eric Saward's Doctor Who. Writing a radio production of Doctor Who -- the first one that didn't require first person narration (like The Pestacons) or recapping TV stories (Genesis of the Daleks) at that -- Saward stripped the TV show he wrote and script edited down to its bare, if eccentric, essentials. And if you're in the right mood, it's a hoot to listen to.

What's so great about it is the bizarre eccentrics Saward populates the story with -- he does this, seemingly at a rate of one every 10 minute episode. The computer, Slarn, Seedle and Snatch, the android drone, come on and add their own bit of oddness and their turns in the story are quite funny. (When he seemingly runs out of characters to bring on, Saward pulls a twist by completely reformatting two of the characters). The story is pure Adams pastiche-- it's very silly and comedic but has a gritty dramatic core that keeps you engaged.

What's lousy about the story is what's lousy about Saward's version of Who generally. The Doctor has no real role in the story, except to be pompous. He carries no air of confidence whatsoever and winds up over his head more often than not. (For example, when the Doctor steps into a room in episode four, the villain says it's a trap and the Doctor simply screams to the cliffhanger stinger. If Tom Baker had done the same scene, be assured the Doctor would have at least had some halfway-decent bravado), which doesn't really help the plot any. Now, the authors of The Discontinuity Guide would say this is because Saward is more interested in mercenaries and tough guys than the Doctor, but I'm not so sure. These are requisite tough guys and mercenaries that are depicted with a degree of wit, absurdity and farcical humour that seems totally appropriate for the Who universe.

In this regard, you can see that Saward's Who work was in fact a forerunner to Lawrence Miles BBC Books -- The Doctor is ineffective and constantly denigrated, but the surrounding universe the lead characters are in is populated by characters and settings are witty and eccentric and bizarre. I put Slipback on in something of a whim because I had turned up my copy in a recent move, and I surprised myself in that I really enjoyed it. It's good fun, and people ought to try and give it a listen (if they can find it) -- it gives an indication of how far Big Finish has come and needs to go. 8/10

A poor substitute for the original Season 23 by Tim Roll-Pickering 26/6/02

Back in 1985 Slipback was the only new Doctor Who to arrive on the BBC during the 'hiatus period' and so it would be tempting to see it as a substitute for the original Season 23. Written by then-Script Editor Eric Saward and featuring the then-current cast of Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant, Slipback has a lot going for it. Unfortunately it is a poor substitute for a full season of television stories and quite simply not very good.

One of the main problems arises in the limited interaction between the Doctor and Peri with some of the other characters. With each episode only ten minutes long there is frequently not enough time for substantial scenes and it is notable that neither of them ever encounter Captain Slarn. As in many stories featuring Colin Baker's Doctor, it takes some time for the Doctor to arrive in the main action and the time in between is wasted with excessive corridor scenes. As is to be expected the story is entirely faithful to the series c1985 and it is easy to ignore the story's explanation of the Big Bang contradicting that given in the television story Terminus since continuity clashes are almost a tradition for the series. But fundamentally it feels extremely badly paced and would have worked much better as a twenty-five minute or so play than as an hour long episodic serial. In place of the normal grim environment of his television stories, Eric Saward injects a lot of humour into the script but it just fails to enliven the story and so the result is easily forgettable.

Of the cast, Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant both give strong performances and it is not hard to realise why so many of Colin's later Big Finish adventures are considered to be amongst the best. The guest cast is mostly unmemorable other than Valentine Dyall who gives a good performance as Slarn but is severely hampered by the fact that he never gets any directed scenes with the Doctor and Peri. Otherwise Slipback has reasonable effects but just fails to enliven and it is easy to see why this story has been overlooked so much even in the era of regular Doctor Who audio adventures. 1/10

A Review by Richard Radcliffe 22/7/02

Season 23 was cancelled you know. Michael Grade gave Doctor Who a rest, and it never really recovered. 4 years later it stopped on the BBC. 12 years later on we have more Doctor Who than you could ever have dreamed of, but none of it is visual. Slipback started a trend, if we can't have TV Doctor Who, we'll have something else instead!

Unfortunately it's not that good - but then again things with cocky Computers rarely are. It is interesting to listen again to Slipback. Colin Baker has defined his Doctor in the Audio medium. There is no doubt in my mind that he is the best Doctor on Audio - his Doctor has joined Tom as my favourite incarnation of the Time-Lord, and this has happened because of audio. My reasoning is simple, I prefer Audio to TV. And Colin is King in that field.

This judgement is clearly however, not based on his first story in that medium - Slipback. It is a drama for Audio Completists like myself only, there is not one Big Finish Audio that remotely reaches its depths in any conceivable way.

Bottom of the pile must come the script. Eric Saward wrote some good stuff for TV, was he a bit rushed in this one? The Vipod Mor is hardly the place to produce sets bigger and more robust than the TV can ever achieve. The picture in the mind is always small cramped corridors, flashing Computer terminals and glorified boiler suits for the crew.

Next has to be the criminal misuse of one of the best voices ever to grace the Radio. I speak of Valentine Dyall. Apparently this was his last performance in anything, what a dire way to go. His character is superfluous to everything, and is a complete waste.

The way the story is structured is also detrimental to the listener. 6 parts of 10 minutes long mean that we have to have a cliffhanger. There is no recap thank goodness, but you do begin to tire of Colin Baker yelling NOOOOOOOOOOOO at the top of his lungs.

The Cocky Computer has already been mentioned, but it really brings things down. I think (correct me if I am wrong) the Computer has more lines in this story than anyone/thing else, and most of those lines are from the grating voice, dipsy side of the computer. What a travesty giving so much time in so short a story to such a character. Doh!

Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant are not to blame for the direness of this production. They are the innocent parties in this, and have proved their talents in other stories. Slipback provides a woeful use of the 6th Doctor and Peri. They deserve better, and thankfully have been given better. The Twin Dilemma is better than this. 4/10

A Review by Ron Mallett 1/6/05

This must be the most maligned story of the TV 6th Doctor era... and that is quite a title. On reflection... it isn't half-bad. Eric Saward - for all his faults - knew how to put a half-decent story together. The problem is that many of the elements of the story belongs to someone else (ie. Douglas Adams). There are so many elements of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy that at times I had to remind myself that I was supposed to be listening to Doctor Who!

That I think is the heart of the problem with Slipback. It has been hard to treat a story with any regard that it's clear the writer wasn't taking seriously. After all it's only audio! That's the impression I get. Ironically for the past few years, the audio medium has been a very major part of Who... and continues to be so today. Still the actors obviously threw themselves into it, Colin and Nicola shining as always. Valentine Dyall's last performance is hilarious. The incidental music is very obviously Season 22, and it helps for us old hands (those who can actually remember when all this was taking place) to situate it in its historical context.

A major criticism has been the fact that the story appears to contradict Terminus - which was script-edited by Saward. The two story don't gel and this has given fuel to the insistence from many that the story cannot be considered to be canon. Was Saward running out of ideas or just felt that because it was a different medium, it was possible to recycle many similar ideas... including those of Adams (a computer with an abnormal personality, a grumpy and malevolent ship captain etc.). On the original side of the coin, the android butler could be seen as a precursor to Kryten from Red Dwarf!

I think overall that Slipback is best suited to the casual Doctor Who audience - those that don't take it and continuity issues too seriously. Furthermore it points to a definite wasted opportunity. If Nathan-Turner and Saward had been on the ball, we could have had the original Season 23 at the time... in audio. The Argolis Productions version of The Nightmare Fair has proved how effective that would have been. In retrospect it sort of seems obvious doesn't it!

A Review by Matthew Kresal 3/11/08

In 1985/1986, Doctor Who found itself on hiatus. In an attempt to give fans something during this, this radio story was made. It plays like some of the worst stories of the Colin Baker era. This isn't Baker's or Nicola Bryant's fault though, as much as it's the fault of the writing and other actors. In short, Slipback is amongst the worst Doctor Who stories ever made.

Both Baker and Bryant manage to play Eric Saward's script as well as they can. In fact, they make the story worth listening to, just to hear their chemistry together. Baker in particular seems to be a little more human and less arrogant then his TV performances in the role. Bryant plays the only really sane character in the story, which gives her a chance to shine. They do their best with the story.

The rest of the cast is a disappointment. Valentine Dyall as Captain Slarn, in his final performance, is a real letdown, with some odd line delivery and a poor performance all around. Jane Carr seems to have fun in the dual role of the ship's computer with two personalities. While the hidden personality is fine to listen to, the public voice of the computer is very annoying and, while meant to be humorous, it isn't in the least. The other characters are just there for the laughs and are really dumb... and that's being nice.

The main problem with the story is the writing. Eric Saward, the show's script editor and sometime writer, had done some good stories in his time (Earthshock, Revelation of the Daleks) and this is not one of them. In fact, this may be his worst piece of work on the series. The main story is perhaps the most improbable collection of characters and circumstances ever to be put together in a single Doctor Who story. The characters are bland and played for laughs to the point of annoyance. In particular the whole section featuring Dyall's Captain Slarn could have been left out without making a single difference to the story, considering he does absolutely nothing! Sawardseems to have forgotten what makes Doctor Who work and instead creates, or rather tires to create, a poor man's version of Douglas Adams' classic Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. As I said it's a poor man's version.

Is Slipback worth listening to? It depends on how much of a fan you are. If you're a casual fan, avoid this and listen to one of the Baker Big Finish stores or one of the other BBC audio stories. If you're a die-hard fan of the series, then yes. But keep this in mind: listening to this is a really bad way to die. Slipback is perhaps the worst Doctor Who story ever and I do not recommend it.

A Review by E. John Winner 22/8/12

Slipback is a very frustrating story to listen to. I mean, when I first heard it at a friend's, I thought it was fun, and I didn't understand why my friend kept frowning and finally said, 'oh, well,' and went on to talk about something else. So, when I found a used copy cheap, I didn't hesitate, grabbed it and enjoyed it again.

However, I generally don't buy audio drama that I think I'll only listen to once or twice. Many of my Big Finish and BBC Doctor Who audios have rewarded me in different ways over many plays. Even the seemingly frivolous Pescatons is a familiar companion for Tom Baker's voice alone and somehow more comfortably reminiscent of the Fourth Doctor era than the stripped down Classic Beeb's Genesis of the Daleks story (which after all is one of the darkest Doctor stories ever).

So, a week after listening to my newly acquired Slipback I gave it another listen - and found myself growing disappointed. I wanted to know why, so a week later I gave it another listen, and found myself more disappointed. And I began to realize why.

Others have complained of the annoying quality of one of the computer's voices, but I could forgive that; after all, even the computer knows it's a silly voice! Others have noted that the characters lack full realization, but the brevity of the format means being somewhat tolerant of this as well.

No, the real problem is that Saward is writing three stories that run parallel to each other but never really overlap or connect. The first is an alien-monster-on-a-spaceship story that just happens to include a subplot involving two bumbling police hunting down art thieves (!); the second is a tyrannical-leader-threatening-mass-destruction-if-he-doesn't-get-his-way story, which was a recurrent thematic for the television series going way back. Neither of these stories is fully developed nor do they reach satisfying conclusions. But the primary story, concerning a schizophrenic computer experimenting with time to alter the course of history, is certainly the most promising - and the most disappointing. Most promising because psychotic computers are always interesting (remember The Face of Evil?). Most disappointing because its 'resolution' is a completely deus-ex-machina copout that Saward seemingly expects to resolve the other two stories as well. Well, it doesn't; what it does do is make everything sound rushed, choppy, unfinished. Suddenly one feels cheated. I really did get interested in each of these three stories, but none are developed, none are resolved and then suddenly... the Big Bang (no, seriously) and roll end credits.

Saward's got to be kidding. And maybe he is. The stories here are all credible Who narratives; any one of them, developed fully, would have made an solid serial on TV; and one can imagine a writer of real talent finding a way to connect the three with wit and substance; the basic idea of separate stories overlapping was used well in Carnival of Monsters, after all. But in CoM, the separate stories do come together, well before the end, and their differing resolutions depend strongly on one another; nor do any of the resolutions seem deus ex machina. Defending Saward on the basis of the brevity of his format doesn't work here. He must have known the format going into the project; it was his duty to write a story to suit that format, not give us a taste of 'ah, might have been had we the time!' But that's exactly what this feels like. Saward clearly doesn't take the format seriously - and if the humor of the piece falls flat, it's because a lot of it is clearly deriving from Saward's cavalier attitude to the project.

And the worst of it is that, after the third listen, one becomes painfully aware that the Doctor's involvement in the any of the stories amounts to practically nothing. He chats with some of the other characters, runs about a bit, loses then meets Peri again, but he doesn't actually DO anything. He doesn't even meet the tyrant captain of the spaceship threatening mass destruction! And then, towards the end, when he is at last about to take action... the Big Bang, roll end credits. WTF?! What's the point of a story about a hero who doesn't do anything heroic? It's hard to know what Saward's game here is; had he just gotten tired of the character, did he lose interest in the character's fans, was he trying to '86' the character in preparation for cancellation? We'll probably never know, but certainly this does real damage to the Doctor's credibility as sci-fi fantasy hero.

Too bad; not simply because this was to be the hiatus-filler that many fans must have been hoping for, but because everyone involved seems to be doing their darnedest to pull it off. Colin Baker seems more self-assured here than on any of his TV appearances and Nicola Bryant plays Peri in a suitably subdued manner; even when Saward's script clearly calls for histrionics, she too sounds rooted and self-assured. And, despite the fact that the characters are all OTT, the rest of cast are all doing their best to sound authentic and sincere, recognizing that irony works best when it is played straight. The sound design, while rather spare, certainly sounds convincing.

Fortunately, even while this radio series was being broadcast, a couple of groups of fans were demonstrating that the Doctor could indeed have a life in audio, particularly the so-called Audio Visual dramas that involved creative talents that would develop into real professionalism, later realized commercially as Big Finish Productions. And the Doctor would return to radio in all his glory in the audacious, if flawed, Paradise of Death.

As for Slipback, the best I can recommend it for is one or two listens. As a toss-away, there are worse ways to spend an hour. But I don't recommend adding it to your library. There's a grim possibility it may just sit there and do nothing. Pretty much like the Doctor ends up doing at the end of this story.