‘Doctor Who’ spin-off ‘Iris Wildthyme’ audio review: ‘Wildthyme Reloaded’

Back for a fifth season, and embracing a zippy new format (as trialled in ‘The Worlds of Big Finish’), the Number 22 to Putney Common has returned.

For the uninitiated, her driver is the erstwhile Iris Wildthyme, trans-temporal adventuress, bon viveur and occasional sparring partner of the Doctor. For these stories, she is accompanied by her dashing young Victorian travelling companion Captain Turner.

The adventures begin with ‘Comeback of the Scorchies’, the musical menaces who have previously trifled with both Jago & Litefoot, as well as the Doctor and Jo Grant. This time, it is an end of the pier tale for a faded 80’s popstar who has some history with Iris.

From there, these highly enjoyable tales come thick and fast. From a haunted house paid for by gambling wins in another life to a Scottish supermarket where the checkout assistant has second sight, from a bittersweet murder mystery which plays with the conventions of detective drama to a futuristic casino with addictive slot machines.

Katy Manning’s Iris Wildthyme has lost none of her vigour and the stories give her licence to do what she does best. It is not all comedy though, as we see a little vulnerability beneath the bluster on occasion.

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For his part, Geoffrey Bretton provides able support as Captain Turner, battling ably to keep up and ask the right questions despite being a little baffled by the technology at times. He even enjoys a love interest along the way and some moments of downright heroism. Together they are a fine paring and we would gladly hear more from them.

There are some great names in the guest cast, including David Warner, Tracey Childs and Nicola Bryant. We particularly enjoyed Stephen Fewell’s smarmy turn as Seth the Sensational in ‘The Slots of Giza’.

Of course Iris is without once essential component throughout, her stalwart companion Panda, and her creator Paul Magrs addresses the absence in a wonderfully meta finale. Propping up a bar in Bloomsbury, we find Iris ‘Looking for a Friend’ and telling the story of an encounter with a strangely familiar fellow.

Iris Reloaded is a strong set of comic adventures which seem well suited to the shorter format and never outstay their welcome. Based on this showing, there’s plenty of life in the old gal yet!

Extras: There are over nine minutes of outtakes on the release and a brief making-of featurette.

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Released in August 2015 by Big Finish.

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