THIS REVIEW MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS.
The Trouble with Drax, of course, means trouble for The Doctor. As a result, the Doctor effortlessly occupies the role of a galactic version of Indiana Jones to find a fabled lost city.
When figures of the past reemerge for The Doctor, it very rarely means good news for the TARDIS crew. Especially when said figure is from Gallifrey. The TARDIS is once again plucked from the ever-unreliable time vortex and situates itself slap-bang in the midst of chaos and confusion. Set in Tom Bakers fan-favourite season 17, The Trouble with Drax continues this level of quality. With Lalla Ward’s Romana and John Leeson’s K9 taken hostage, The Fourth Doctor is faced with the question of how far he is willing to go to save his friends. Will he aid the enemy? Will The Doctor allow himself to be bent out of shape? When dealing with Drax, the answers are never that simple.
It’s hard not to be reminded of characters such as ‘Harry Potter’s’ Mundungus Fletcher or ‘Only Fools and Horses’ Derek ‘Del Boy’ Trotter when encountering Ray Brooks’ Drax. Stereotypes of the ‘conniving Cockney’ are used by writer John Dorney; a slightly exhausted though successful characterisation. There is more slime from Drax than from an exploding Slitheen, and betrayal and blackmail are certain from him. Fans of classic Who will remember Drax as an old academy chum of The Doctor’s, giving their confrontation and relationship a welcomed bit of complexity. But that is the trouble with Drax. Due to the characters Time-Lord ability of regeneration: can you ever be sure of who he really is? After all, even The Doctor faces such ethical and moral conundrums himself with every new appearance.
The honouring of the late Barry Jackson is key to the multiple characterisations of Time-Lord Drax. Barry Jackson debuted the character of Drax in Bob Baker and Dave Martin’s 1979 ‘The Armageddon Factor’. This was another Fourth Doctor story that was met with critical and fan acclaim. Drax is portrayed by multiple actors in this adventure: Ray Brooks, John Challis, Hugh Fraser, John Leeson and Miranda Raison. Any claim that Drax is two faced is simply understated, as the conniving Time-Lord is three steps ahead with five. As is expected of Doctor Who, actors give their Time-Lord characters not just life, but a long legacy too. It is because of Jackson’s original portrayal that the character is so well established here. There is a celebration for the character almost equivalent to a standard anniversary special.
As is often the case with two-part adventures, the first part largely serves to set up an action-packed second half. Much of the exposition of the first part is occasionally unnecessary, sometimes stunting plot progression or substantial character development. However, what works astonishingly well is the return to the classic period of Doctor Who. Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor, Lalla Ward’s Romana and even a few surprise classic Who characters deliver a dose of familiarity in a tale full of ambiguities and deception. The dream TARDIS team is restored, and Whovian hearts will fill with glee as their legends are honourably added too. Furthermore, this portion is directed by non-other than Nicholas Briggs. Briggs is a frequent Big Finish director and of course, esteemed voice of the Daleks. It is a likelihood just by the list of credentials that the adventure is in good hands: and a certainty once experienced.
Ultimately, ‘The Trouble with Drax’ continues the Who trope of taking genres and remoulding them to perfectly fit the Whoniverse. The adventure is in many ways reminiscent of Indiana Jones’ frantic searches for lost treasures. This will, of course, extend on to the many fans of classic Who: be prepared to relaunch yourself into the bonkers Baker era at full throttle.
Blogtor Rating 8/10
Altrazar. The temporal Atlantis, a place lost to time. Believed by many to be a myth, it has long been the perfect location for the rich and powerful to hide away their most dangerous secrets.
Because the somewhat crooked, not exactly honest, wheeler-dealer cockney Time Lord known as Drax has found a map that leads to its location. And, at the behest of a manipulative businessman, he’s going to use it.
When the TARDIS is dragged out of the space-time vortex, its crew aren’t best pleased to see the Doctor’s old school friend, even less when he pressgangs them into joining a raid on the most secure safe-house in history. However with Romana and K9 held hostage, the Doctor has little choice but to agree. With Drax in tow, he heads for the planet.
Which is where the trouble starts.
Written By: John Dorney
Directed By: Nicholas Briggs
Tom Baker (The Doctor), Lalla Ward (Romana), John Leeson (K9/Cabot), Ray Brooks (Drax), John Challis (Rosser), Hugh Fraser (Charles Kirkland/Shopkeeper), Jane Slavin (Shopkeeper 2), Miranda Raison (Inspector Fleur McCormick), John Banks (Grunthar/Street-Cleaner)