‘THE INVASION OF E-SPACE’
Please feel free to comment on my review.
An Adventure in E-Space with the Farrian
‘The Invasion of E-Space’ is a ‘Doctor Who’ Companion Chronicle featuring Lalla Ward as Romana!
It is a two-part story by…Andrew Smith! This is a real treat as Andrew returns to write for ‘Doctor Who’ after so many years! Andrew wrote ‘Full Circle’ in 1980, which was the first story in ‘The E-Space Trilogy’. Andrew was invited by the producer David Richardson to write for Big Finish in 2009.
Andrew writes a new story with Lalla Ward as Romana in the Companion Chronicles series. It was originally called ‘The CVE Makers’ before it became ‘The Invasion of E-Space’. It makes a nice connection to Andrew’s first writing experience and this is the first of many Big Finish audios by him.
I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Andrew at conventions. I’ve had the CD cover of ‘The Invasion of E-Space’ signed by Andrew Smith at the ‘Project Motor Mouth 2’ convention in Slough, August 2013. Andrew is a great guy to chat to and I’ve enjoyed chatting to him about his audio work for Big Finish.
What I found from listening to this story is that Andrew recaptured the spirit of ‘The E-Space Trilogy’ with references to CVEs and other stories. He also had the chance to write a fully-fledged action adventure with a full-on invasion. It is such a shame this couldn’t be a four-part story instead of two.
This story is set between ‘State of Decay’ and ‘Warriors’ Gate’. It is performed by Lalla Ward as Romana who narrates this in the first person, recollecting the events after ‘Warriors’ Gate’. This story also guest stars Suanne Braun as Marni Tellis, a law enforcement officer of the planet Ballustra.
It is a shame we don’t get to know what happened to Romana after ‘Warriors’ Gate’ in this story. It seems that Romana is still in E-Space with the Tharils by this point before she returns to Gallifrey. This story is taken from two perspectives – one from Romana and one from Marni in diary accounts.
The Doctor and Romana with Adric are still trying to find a way out of E-Space, as they’re searching for a CVE (Charged Vacuum Embiotment). It’s like looking for a needle in a haystack. But as luck would have it, they manage to find one as it opens up in space. But this CVE is volatile and unstable.
This CVE was created deliberately from the other side, as E-Space is soon invaded by a war-like species called the Farrian. They make their first attack on the planet Ballustra. Can the Doctor, Romana and Adric stop this invasion in time before they have their chance to get through the CVE?!
Andrew gets to write for Romana again since ‘Full Circle’. I liked how Andrew’s recaptured the spirit and grace of Romana. Lalla Ward’s version of Romana is so cool and precise. She can be quite cold, but she is also compassionate. It was interesting hearing this story from this Romana’s point-of-view.
I liked how Romana’s relationship with Adric is developed. It’s clear that Romana and Adric didn’t see eye to eye. Whether that’s due to Lalla Ward and Matthew Waterhouse’s relationship, I don’t know. Its good it’s mentioned here, as Romana was unhappy when Adric stowed away aboard the TARDIS.
But Romana learns more about Adric when they’re both locked up in their interrogation cell on Letrus, one of the moons of Ballustra. Since Andrew introduced Adric in ‘Full Circle’, he knows the character inside out and it was great to have him write for the character again in his new adventure.
Suanne Braun delivers a great performance as this sexy, refined interrogation officer in Marni Tellis. I liked how Marni narrates her story, as she witnesses the invasion of her home planet. She interacts with Romana and Adric when she’s interrogating them and gets to meet the Doctor who rescues her.
Hearing Suanne as Marni was pretty refreshing, since it was nice to hear a supporting character have a story of her own. It was interesting how Andrew does it in terms of writing Romana’s side of the story as well as Marni’s side of the story in parallel to each other and it works out pretty well for me.
Andrew gets to write the Fourth Doctor again and describes him down to the last detail, from burgundy coat to scarf. It was rare for Big Finish to have a story told during the Season 18 era of ‘Doctor Who’ that is essentially the last leg of Tom Baker’s era. But it was intriguing and nice to hear.
Andrew writes the Fourth Doctor pretty much as he’d written him in ‘Full Circle’, getting him involved in the action and being heroic rescuing Marni Tellis. Although he gets a bump on the head in ‘Part One’ and is put away into the Zero Room, he manages to come back in full form in ‘Part Two’.
K-9 doesn’t feature in this story at all I’m afraid, as he’s kept in the dog house. This reemphasises the spirit of Season 18 during this story, since the production term were trying to get rid of K-9 at the time. Andrew Smith also wasn’t a fan of K-9, as he made this clear for the ‘K-9 in E-Space’ featurette on the ‘Full Circle’ DVD.
The planet Ballustra is the first of the Farrian invasion to be attacked. I liked how Andrew depicts this alien world, although Ballustra is quite an extraordinary planet name to get your tongue around. It’s revealed there are eight billion people on the planet who are victims from this E-Space invasion.
The Farrian are a war-like species who have the ability to create CVEs in their own universe. This raises a question about whether the Farrian were partly responsible for creating the CVEs as much as the Logopolitans were. The Doctor and Romana know who the Farrian are and are terrified of them.
Why these Farrian want to invade E-Space by creating CVEs is unclear. They are led by a Farrian warrior called Maxin, who is pretty vicious and callous. He even shoots Adric in the leg in cold blood. These Farrian are vicious in the terms of their weaponry and technology such as blasters and blades.
You can tell there are a lot of Bidmead influences in this, as ‘The E-Space Trilogy’ was devised by script editor Christopher H. Bidmead. As well as CVEs, Andrew includes a reference to the Zero Room, which is unusual as the Zero Room doesn’t get shown in ‘Doctor Who’ until ‘Castrovalva’.
Something disappointed me about this story. It’s a minor thing, but they got the wrong theme music! The Delia Derbyshire theme music is used for the opening and closing credits. It should be the Peter Howell theme music for Tom Baker’s last season in this specific ‘Doctor Who’ audio adventure.
This story is well directed by Lisa Bowerman (well-known as Bernice Summerfield). Lisa has a knack and talent for directing ‘Doctor Who’ audio stories like the Companion Chronicles. She takes great care to participate the writer’s involvement, including Andrew’s very tongue-twisting Ballustra.
The CD extras are as follows. There’s a trailer for ‘A Town Called Fortune’ with Maggie Stables as Evelyn Smythe. There are also behind-the-scenes cast and crew interviews with Lalla Ward, Suanne Braun, writer Andrew Smith and director Lisa Bowerman, conducted by producer David Richardson.
‘The Invasion of E-Space’ is a great story to listen to. I enjoyed listening to this story by Andrew Smith as it’s been nice to explore more of Season 18. I hope there’ll be more stories set in E-Space soon. This story is worthy for the enjoyment with Lalla Ward’s Romana and Suanne Braun as Marni Tellis.
‘The Invasion of E-Space’ rating – 8/10
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