As The Seventh Doctor, Chris and Roz embark on new adventures with Big Finish, BlogtorWho revisits a previous release; Damaged Goods.
In 1996 a novel titled Damaged Goods was released as part of Virgin’s New Adventures range. It was written by a man who at the time didn’t have a Doctor Who credit to his name. That man just happened to be Russell T Davies.
At the time no one could have expected that Davies would be one of the key figures in bringing Doctor Who back to television screens less than a decade later. He may have gone on to create much bigger things since then, but Damaged Goods was never forgotten. Finally, in 2015 it was revisited by Big Finish for a full audio adaptation.
The TARDIS brings the Seventh Doctor, Chris and Roz to London in 1987, where a new drug has swept the city. Investigating from a run down housing estate named ‘The Quadrant’, the Doctor and his companions discover that an alien force has been awoken – connected to two young boys and an event that separated them years ago.
Laying the Groundwork
Damaged Goods feels very much like a prototype for what Russell T Davies would eventually do with the series proper in 2005. Some of the parallels are more obvious than others, a Tyler family living on a housing estate, for example. Considering the themes presented, there’s a strong sense of Davies’ vision for Doctor Who. It’s a far more human tale. More emphasis is placed on the characters and the drama, eventually culminating in the sort of big climax scene you can recall during Davies’ TV episodes. The story is not just ‘big’ in terms of scope either. This is a story that runs high on emotion, thoroughly human throughout even with more fantastical elements.
Davies’ stories often hinged on something as simple as love saving the day in addition to the Doctor’s cleverness, and Damaged Goods is certainly no exception. On the other hand, if you’ve ever wondered what Davies’ television stories would’ve been like had he gone darker then this will provide the answers you’re looking for. A darker Doctor demands a darker tale. There are some particularly grim themes and moments running through Damaged Goods that make it far more suitable for this format over television.
Much like when he was given the chance to write the Eleventh Doctor in The Sarah Jane Adventures, it’s interesting to see how Davies gets to grips with the intricacies of the Doctor’s Seventh incarnation. The darker storyline suits the duplicitous chess-master perfectly. McCoy revels in how his Doctor can switch between jovial, brooding and judgemental at the drop of his hat. He was also always one for a memorable speech, and Damaged Goods delivers once again. On this occasion it comes in the form of how a housing estate is a much bigger challenge for the Doctor than any command base of alien attackers. While the Doctor has no trouble waltzing into the latter, solving a mystery in the former is much harder when he doesn’t have an excuse to be entering people’s homes.
Travis Oliver and Yasmin Bannerman put in excellent performances as novel-exclusive companions Chris and Roz. Without prior knowledge of either character or how they came to travel with the Doctor, newcomers may struggle to connect with them in the same way they perhaps do with other companions. That said, both characters serve their purpose well within the story itself, certainly enough to provoke interest and seek out their further adventures. The guest cast is also fantastic, with commendation going particularly to Georgie Fuller and Denise Black for their roles as Bev Tyler and Eva Jericho – two mothers that walk very different paths in the story but are connected through an unyielding love for their children.
A Different Point of View
For fans of the original novel, this isn’t just a chance to hear that prose spun into a fully-fledged audio, as Jonathan Morris has also thrown a few surprises into the mix. The most notable alteration from the original version of course the changing of the drug from cocaine to the much less sinister sounding (but in story terms equally as impactful) ‘Smile’. It’s important to note that none of these changes feel at all unnecessary. They not only make the story feel more rounded for the audio format but also exorcise some of its darker/more adult elements. But what will undoubtedly interest fans are the references to the modern era of Doctor Who that Morris has thrown into the mix, tying it to firmly to some particularly significant elements of Who lore that Davies cemented during his time as showrunner.
Damaged Goods offers a fascinating insight into Russell T Davies’ early forays into the world of Doctor Who and how it parallels with what he would later go on to achieve. In many ways the story wouldn’t look out of place among the Ninth and Tenth Doctors’ adventures with Rose Tyler. Equally it’s a much darker and more raw conveyance of the themes that would define his tenure. With plenty to keep both new listeners and fans of the original novel entertained, Damaged Goods ticks all the right boxes for the perfect audio adaptation.
The year is 1987 and there’s a deadly new narcotic on the streets of London. As part of their investigations the Doctor and his companions Chris and Roz move into the Quadrant, a rundown housing estate. An ancient alien menace has been unleashed, a menace somehow linked to a local gang leader known as The Capper, a charmed young boy called Gabriel and his mother Winnie, the enigmatic Frei Foundation, and Eva Jericho, a woman driven to the brink of madness.
As London descends into an apocalyptic nightmare, the Doctor must uncover the truth about the residents of the Quadrant and a desperate bargain made one dark Christmas Eve.
Based on the original 1996 New Adventures novel by Doctor Who writer and executive producer Russell T Davies.
Written By: Russell T Davies, adapted by Jonathan Morris.
Directed By: Ken Bentley.
Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Travis Oliver (Chris Cwej), Yasmin Bannerman (Roz Forrester), Michelle Collins (Winnie Tyler), Denise Black (Eva Jericho), Georgie Fuller (Bev Tyler), Tayler Marshall (Gabriel Tyler), Richard Hope (Harry Harvey), Daniel Brocklebank (David Daniels), Peter Barrett (The Capper), Robert Duncan (Mr Thomas), Damian Lynch (Scott Delaney).