Doctor Who: The Skin of the Sleek - Review

Before the creation of Facebook, when you left you're school friends, unless you made special reasons to keep in touch, chances where you would loose touch and only meet up again after years apart or reunions. If you were really lucky, you'd bump into on the street and everything would change.

That sense is what The Skin of the Sleek grabs and runs with in the first of a two CD-release set. Marc Platt brings the Fourth Doctor and Romana to a mysterious world called Fundrell, where Romana happens to stumble across her old school chum, Sartia.

When she originally travelled with the Doctor on television, Romana was a pretty bold move in terms of travelling companions as she was obviously more intelligent than the Doctor, even if she didn't have much in the way of experience with travelling. And while many of the Doctor's classmates, most notably the Master, the Rani and the Meddling Monk, have turned out to be baddies, we don't really know much about Romana's past and the effect this audiodrama gives us is quite magical.

Lalla Ward's incarnation of Romana was less of a straight-laced-ice-maiden than Mary Tamm's was, but she managed to balance her sense of fun with her distain about the Doctor's lifestyle. Hearing her revert back to her rebellious school days is such a great idea that one wonders why no one had done it before it now.

But don't run away with the idea that this story is about Gallifrey Facebook friend requests, it focuses on the classic way of telling a Doctor Who story, matching perfectly with a certain depth and theatricality, curtesy of Platt's extensive knowledge base.

Fundrell is your basic weird planet-thing. It has a surface that keeps moving and only holds you up if you move with it. Anyone who stands still will sink into its boggy surface, which isn't a great idea as there are monstrous Sleeks that live under the surface. And then there is the matter of the villager's god, something that is hungry and plays into the kind of horror trope of having something to sacrifice people too. It is something that comes in handy for a cliff-hanger.

And then there is something of a narrative on the nature of television with a film crew from Mars making a documentary on the locals of Fundrell. While they initially try to stay away from them, they find themselves drawn into the narrative more and more, especially when their ship crashes into the surface.

What will really strike you is how multi-layered this story is. Levels including Time Lords reuniting as you might do with an old friend, ethnic tourism and mystery journalism, a genuine conundrum at Fendrell's core and even more to discover with the second part as this story ends on a moment that literally changes the game.

And while there are some fairly high concepts at play in this story, it is a fairly fast paced hour that leaves you invested in the characters and their situations and it really leaves you wanting answers to all the questions it raises. I normally don't like these stories which take two CD's to tell it but I am eagerly awaiting The Thief Who Stole Time to see how this concludes...