Please feel free to comment on my review.
Metatraxi with Captain Ace of the Vancouver
This is the lost ‘Doctor Who’ story that I was looking forward to the most!
I love ‘Earth Aid’! This is the fourth and final story in Season 27 of ‘Doctor Who’ with the Seventh Doctor, Ace and Raine. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this outer-space adventure that is very different compared to the previous three earthbound adventures that have taken place in the season.
I knew about this story from watching the ‘Endgame’ documentary on the ‘Survival’ DVD. The story begins with a ‘Star Trek’-styled opening sequence. Ace is the captain of a starship and is on the bridge. She then goes to her quarters to find the Doctor there before saying to him, “This isn’t going to work.”
This story was originally meant to be the season opener. But with Ace now not leaving the series in the Big Finish audios and with the addition of Raine as a new TARDIS member, it was made as the season finale. ‘Earth Aid’ works well as a season finale and it ties up plenty of threads before this story.
‘Earth Aid’ is a four-part adventure that was originally conceived by Ben Aaronovitch himself for the TV series. Now the story is by both Ben Aaronovitch and Andrew Cartmel, the script editor for the Seventh Doctor era and Season 27. Ben and Andrew worked in collaboration together for this Season 27 finale.
The story has Ace being the captain of the starship Vancouver and the Doctor being the ship’s surgeon. They’re on a humanitarian aid mission to deliver a quantity of grain to an alien planet. But on the way, they run into trouble and they come up against the ferocious Metatraxi and the hungry slug-like Grubs.
I’m very pleased with how the script editor Andrew Cartmel has crafted this season of audio stories from start to finish with Big Finish. All the elements with Raine, the Metatraxi and so on seem to have all been connected and progressively developed along the way, which I’m sure Andrew’s pleased with.
The starship Vancouver escorts a smaller vessel that contains the large cargo of grain on board. The story’s concepts of a futuristic Earth Aid and delivering grain to an alien planet are pretty fascinating. It is also this pretty interesting notion of how ecology is going to turn out to be in the future for us all.
There is an overdose of humour in certain places during the story, but somehow I don’t mind that so much. I was easily captivated into the story and as long as the humour serves the plot of the story and is well-balanced (which I’m pretty certain it is in most of this audio adventure), then that suits me fine.
I love the ‘Star Trek’ atmosphere and references featured in this story. I was a Trekkie fan first before a ‘Doctor Who’ fan. Hearing Ace and the Doctor say “Make it so”; “Belay that”; “Steady as she goes” and “Earl Grey tea” was fantastic. This feels more ‘Next Generation’ than ‘Original Series’ of ‘Star Trek’.
Sophie Aldred as Ace is brilliant in this adventure. Imagining Ace as a starship captain like James T. Kirk is amazing! Ace is completely out of depth as the Doctor’s put her in this unusual position of authority. But she manages well and gets to use some of her cunning in giving starship commands during a battle.
Sylvester McCoy as the Doctor is equally brilliant. It becomes a mystery as to why he and Ace are a part of the starship Vancouver at the beginning. But the Doctor works it out, as he knows there’s something with the grain on board the aid ship that the Vancouver is escorting that needs sorting out.
Beth Chalmers returns as Raine in the story. I was pleased to hear Raine in this. Raine decided to stay behind on Earth in ‘Animal’. When the Doctor finds her, she’s locked up in a safe aboard the grain cargo vessel since she was abducted on Earth. It was a complete surprise for me when she turned up.
The story’s guest cast includes Paterson Joseph as Victor Espinoza. Paterson played Roderick in the two-part TV story called ‘Bad Wolf’/’The Parting of the Ways’. Victor is a shifty character that the Doctor and Ace find aboard the cargo ship. He sings sea-shanties and makes a deal with the Metatraxi.
There’s also Ingrid Oliver as Lt. Baraki. Ingrid would later go on to play Osgood in the TV series of ‘Doctor Who’. Baraki is an officer who joins the boarding party lead by Ace and the Doctor to the grain cargo ship. Baraki has to keep her eyes on Victor. She soon ends up being the voice of a sentient planet.
The crew of the starship Vancouver also includes Nadine Marshall as Shepstay and Basher Savage as Yanikov. These two (especially Yanikov) suspect Ace as their starship captain since she’s so out of her depth at times and seems to know more about what’s going on with the Metatraxi than they seem to.
The Metatraxi, voiced by John Banks, return and I was delighted to hear them in this season finale. They’re not at all happy since they vow their revenge on the Doctor for humiliating them by tampering with their voice translators. The Metatraxi put the Doctor in their arena of death on their home planet.
There are also the Grubs, voiced by Alex Mallinson. I found these monsters amusing and intriguing to listen to. They’re slug-like creatures who have one thing in mind. They’re ravenously hungry. They seem to be very benign and not evil. Their nature and language is strongly reinforced by their appetite.
I found it rather amusing when the Grubs eat their way through the grain aboard the cargo ship when the Doctor and Raine find them. Raine find them revolting and there’s this astonishing revelation that connects the Grubs and the Metatraxi together. I discovered this revelation in ‘Part Four’ of the story.
At the end of the story, the Doctor, Ace and Raine are still in the TARDIS. I enjoyed that last scene between the TARDIS trio and it felt like they were going to have some more adventures. I’ve greatly enjoyed this TARDIS team set-up and hoped that it wasn’t the end of Raine. Maybe it isn’t. Who knows!
I’ve really enjoyed ‘Earth Aid’. It’s a great ‘Star Trek’-styled adventure with the Seventh Doctor, Ace and Raine and is a great finale for Season 27. Beth Chalmers has played Raine so wonderfully in these audio stories. I hoped to hear more audio adventures starring the Seventh Doctor, Ace and Raine soon.
The CD extras are as follows. At the end of Discs 1 and 2, there are behind-the-scenes interviews with the cast and crew on the making of ‘Earth Aid’. These interviews include Sylvester McCoy, Sophie Aldred, Beth Chalmers, Paterson Joseph, Ingrid Oliver, co-writer Andrew Cartmel, director Ken Bentley, etc. There’s also a trailer for ‘The Elite’ with Peter Davison, Janet Fielding and Sarah Sutton.
‘Earth Aid’ rating – 9/10
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