Writer: Robert Shearman
Director: Nicholas Pegg
Producers: Jason Haigh-Ellery and Gary Russell
Executive Producer: Jacqueline Rayner
Running Time: 2 hours, 20 minutes
Companion: Frobisher (Robert Jezek)
Summary: Frobisher has convinced the TARDIS to create semi-living fish for him to play with. The Sixth Doctor reminds him that even a semi-living thing can feel pain, but Frobisher won’t listen. Suddenly, the TARDIS takes them to an absurd world, where the inhabitants elect someone to be their god and then kill them when they are unable to perform a miracle. The TARDIS then shuts down, preventing their escape.
When the Doctor and Frobisher arrive, all of the citizens marvel at Frobisher, proclaiming “All hail Frobisher! All hail the big talking bird!” Frobisher wants no part of this, and he and the Doctor must find some way to prevent him from being killed once it’s discovered he’s a fraud.
Review: Before I start, I should tell you who Frobisher is. Frobisher is actually a character who was introduced in the Doctor Who magazine’s comic strip, and traveled with both the Sixth and Seventh Doctors. His first appearance was in the comic strip story “The Shape Shifter”. He’s a Whifferdill, a shape-shifting alien who prefers to be a penguin.
Now that that’s out of the way, I can talk about the story. This is an absurd story. Robert Jezek is great as Frobisher. I get the impression that he’s supposed to be a comic relief character, with the Sixth Doctor as his straight man, the character who either doesn’t get the jokes or is annoyed at them. I laughed so much at their banter.
The society is run entirely by ritual. It’s also discovered that this land is like the Land of Fiction in the classic Second Doctor story, “The Mind Robber”–none of it is real. There is a monster hidden deep in the village who has the mind and personality of a child. Not only must the Doctor prevent the inhabitants from killing his friend, but he must also deal with this monster.
What I think is the story’s greatest strength is its humor. I’ve heard people often complain about the humor in Doctor Who, and I think this story shows that the humor in the show is just as important as the scares. Going into this, I was worried that I wouldn’t enjoy it because I had no connection to Frobisher. I’d never read any of the strips he was in. But I didn’t need that connection. All I needed to know was that Frobisher is an alien penguin. The story is every bit as absurd as the companion spotlighted, and it fits him perfectly. The story pleasantly surprised me.
Overall Review: 10/10
Note: This is one of Big Finish’s “Side Steps”, stories that take place outside of their established canon.
Trivia: This is one of Steven Moffat’s favorite stories featuring the Sixth Doctor. It is the first story Robert Shearman wrote for Big Finish. He also wrote the 9th Doctor episode “Dalek”.