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Giant Rats with the Doctor, Tegan, Turlough and Nyssa
This is a ‘Doctor Who’ story about giant rats!
Is one of them ‘Basil the Rat’ from ‘Fawlty Towers’ or Remy from ‘Ratatouille’? ‘Rat Trap’ is the sixth story featuring the Fifth Doctor; Tegan; Turlough and the older Nyssa. It is also the name of one of the Maximals from the ‘Beast Wars: Transformers’ TV series, although he is spelled Rattrap actually.
This is a four-part story by Tony Lee, who is well-known for writing ‘Doctor Who’ comics. It stars Peter Davison; Janet Fielding; Mark Strickson and Sarah Sutton as the TARDIS foursome. This story was very last-minute as it was commissioned by script editor Alan Barnes after two stories collapsed.
Alan Barnes helped Tony Lee with developing this story for ‘Rat Trap’ on audio. Alan’s experience as an editor for ‘Doctor Who Magazine’ in the comics and as a script editor for the Big Finish audios helps to tighten the story. However I don’t find the actual result of this story to be utterly satisfying.
This story has the Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan and Turlough arriving in an underground tunnel complex beneath Cadogan Castle in 1983. Whilst down there, they discover an abandoned experimental laboratory where giant telepathic rats live. Will they survive and stop the rats wiping out humanity?!
I’m afraid I found this audio drama rather disappointing really. It’s an interesting story with giant rats being able to communicate telepathically and the themes of animal rights running throughout. But I felt this story wasn’t exciting enough and it did seem badly structured and all over the place for me.
Despite the story’s setting on Earth and in an underground tunnel beneath a castle in 1983, I found myself getting lost during the story and tended to drift from the plot. There should have been more action scenes and the character development wasn’t very stand-out as I hoped from listening to this.
Don’t get me wrong! I admire Tony Lee’s attempts to write for audio instead of comics and he had a good stab at it. It starts off pretty well at first, but in the end I felt this story rather lacklustre. I wish that it could have been better and not have it make me tend to drift from listening to the adventure.
The cast give very good performances during this story. I just wish that the Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan and Turlough were more involved in the action aspects of the story. They didn’t do much or stand out as characters as well as I hoped. As much as I tried to enjoy them in this story, it didn’t really help a lot.
Sarah Sutton was a highlight for me as Nyssa in this story. I found I could easily follow and enjoy her scenes more than anything else in the story. That’s due to me being a huge fan of Nyssa anyway and Sarah’s got a good clear voice. This story is pretty significant in the arc featuring the older Nyssa in it.
At the beginning, Nyssa gets upset as the Helheim cure for Richter’s Syndrome from ‘Cobwebs’ is destabilising. Nyssa wants to go back to her family and her time and place since she needs to deliver the cure as soon as possible. I wondered if Nyssa will ever return to her family after her adventures.
I liked it when Nyssa receives telepathic communication from the giant rats as one of them persuades her to help find a cure to Richter’s Syndrome provided she helps them. Nyssa is keen not to ignore this opportunity and helps them. It comes at a cost, as the rats plan to wipe out humanity.
I liked it when Sarah mentions in the CD extras that she’s pleased about this story being Earthbound as she finds those stories easy to visualise compared to the complex futuristic ones. I wish however that the story was set more in the castle as the setting feels static and limited in the tunnel complex.
I liked the moments Janet Fielding as Tegan has in this story. Tegan goes with the Doctor before she gets separated from him and is with Kevin, witnessing the rats at their computers. Tegan is horrified by the rats’ environment and what they live and breathe on, and I couldn’t help but feel for her then.
I liked it when Tegan gets locked up and has scenes with Dr Wallace who explains to her what’s been happening with his experiments on the rats. I liked it when references are made to the Mara in Tegan’s mind. She uses it to her advantage by scaring the rats with an image of the snake inside her.
Mark Strickson doesn’t have a good outing as Turlough, I’m afraid. Turlough gets confined to the TARDIS a lot as he and Sally Lucas try to get away from rats chasing them in the TARDIS corridors. I liked it when Turlough thinks of using the spark wire from ‘The Whispering Forest’ to attack the rats.
It was also quite an interesting moment when Sally turns against Turlough at the end of ‘Part Three’ and he manages to outwit her at the start of ‘Part Four’. I found it interesting how Mark remarks on the writer thinking of him in terms of zoology, especially as I feel that Turlough isn’t so well written here.
Peter Davison’s Doctor is also given an equally poor amount of time spent in this audio drama. I liked it when Peter’s Doctor works things out and is uncovering things about the rats in the tunnels. But I felt Peter’s Doctor wasn’t involved in this story much and did not get a fair amount to do as I hoped.
But Peter gives a good performance as the Doctor and doesn’t let down, despite the poor amount of time he has during this story. I liked the moment when he’s seemingly forgetting the rats can read his mind, yet he manages to make them hesitate when he threatens to use the dog whistle on them.
This story features special guest star Terry Molloy as Dr Wallace, in one of his early chronological appearances in ‘Doctor Who’. Terry is very well-known for playing Davros in ‘Doctor Who’. It’s such a nice change to have Terry playing a human character that isn’t a villain since he’s a troubled scientist.
The story also guest stars John Banks as Clifford Andrews and Alison Thea-Skot as Sally Lucas who come down in the tunnels to find Turlough and Nyssa. There’s also David Seymour as Kevin; Andrew Dickens as Matthew and Charlie Norfolk as Caitlin; who meets the Doctor and Tegan in the tunnels.
The giant rats I found interesting with their telepathy and determination to wipe out humanity. I found the voices rather hard-going to listen to though, as they’re supposed to sound Borg-like from ‘Star Trek’ which I didn’t realise. They are led by the Rat-King, who is voiced by Terry Molloy himself.
In the end, I felt rather dissatisfied with the story’s conclusion as it didn’t feel dramatic enough and was pretty weak. I felt like Nyssa, who wasn’t happy especially as her hopes on stabilising the cure to Richter’s Syndrome were gone. I wish the story could have been better as it seemed very promising.
‘Rat Trap’ is okay, but it’s not great. I felt unhappy with this story as it wasn’t exciting enough and could have been better. It had a promising story, but it wasn’t well-structured enough. If more time had been given to make this story work in writing and production, things could have been different.
The CD extras are as follows. On Disc 1, there are two tracks of incidental music to enjoy. On Disc 2, there is a trailer for ‘Robophobia’ with Sylvester McCoy. There are also behind-the-scenes interviews with the cast and crew including Sarah Sutton; Janet Fielding; Mark Strickson; Terry Molloy; etc.
If you subscribe to Big Finish for ‘Rat Trap’ via a 6 or 12 CD/Download subscription, you’ll get the following extras. There is a PDF script and extended extras of ‘Rat Trap’. There’s also a bonus Short Trip called ‘Twilight’s End’ with the Seventh Doctor, read by Beth Chalmers.
‘Rat Trap’ rating – 5/10
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