After last month’s ghostly goings on at Malkin Place, the fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) and Romana (Lalla Ward) are back in space on a new planet, and in Jonathan Morris’s Subterranea, they are actually inside the planet’s crust. Packed with imagination, Jonathan Morris paints a world where the human inhabitants live inside so-called Drill-towns, desperate to survive and avoid being hunted by the Silex (John Banks).
What is already a clever setting is made more intriguing by the character populating it. In the centre of the story are Mr Maxwell Wilberforce Bell (Matthew Cottle) and his good lady wife Mrs Lucretia Bell (Abigail McKern). Despite futuristic trappings, the Bells (and most others) live in an almost historical culture, punctuated by good manners and the wearing of the appropriate hats. Jonathan Morris deftly balances the surreal with the fantastical, then throws in a good monster in the form of the Silex.
The plot (of course), involves the heroes becoming separated, and gives a chance to meet more of this planet’s inhabitants, including the wonderfully named Mr Jelicho Wigg (Robbie Stevens), Mr Wilfer Wagstaff (Robbie Stevens again) and Mrs Betsy Wagstaff (Jane Slavin) and their daughter Miss Arabella (yes, Jane Slaving again). There’s a real sense of menace but it takes to Doctor and Romana to see the bigger picture, and point out the other threat facing the society.
The story moves along at a good pace, never lets go of the humour and has some really touching moments, particularly for Mr Bell. The world of Drill-towns is innovative, and has some echoes of the show’s history, perhaps with Robots of Death (though that was a Leela adventure) in terms of the world dominated by mining.
The Silex also seem fresh, with real motives and the backstory is well-implied, not bad for a single disc story.
It’s a great release and nice to have the Doctor and Romana not wandering around on Earth for a change. Credit to Nick Briggs for his direction and Jamie Robertson for the superb sound / music.
Extras: Behind the scenes interviews