What better excursion from the current crisis than a Doctor Who Short Trip with Big Finish. The latest release, Decline of the Ancient Mariner, features the Third Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith and is very much grounded in that era of the show.
A gentleman from NASA has paid a visit to UNIT to seek the advice of the Third Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith. Space probe Mariner 10 disappeared briefly and has sent back some intriguing images. Decline of the Ancient Mariner is deliberately similar to the televised story ‘The Ambassadors of Death‘. On that occasion contact had been lost with Mars Probe 7. But at that time the Third Doctor did not have the ability to pilot the TARDIS. Now, later in his Third regeneration, he does have that ability. And that’s where the trouble begins…
The character of Mr Ross also has similarities to Bill Filer from ‘The Claws of Axos‘. Similarly, another character brought to mind the visage of the advanced Solonians seen during ‘The Mutants‘. As a result this short story feels very much planted within the storytelling of early 1970’s Doctor Who. However, writer Rob Nisbet has also embraced the imagination afforded by audio drama. Decline of the Ancient Mariner also draws inspiration from the poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. The parallels are well composed even for those who, like myself, are completely unfamiliar with the material.
Narration duties fall on Mark Reynolds, making his Big Finish debut. He does a commendable job trying to vary his vocal performance to convey the different characters. This largely works with my only feedback being to reduce the pace of the delivery slightly to make the variations clearer to the ear.
Overall, Decline of the Ancient Mariner is an entertaining deviation from the real world. It takes the listener back to a time when Jon Pertwee was the Doctor and Elisabeth Sladen was his companion. At a time when some escapism of the modern world is required, this short trip proves to be the perfect tonic.
When NASA has a problem they can’t quite understand, they quickly turn to the Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith to investigate. Their Mariner 10 probe disappeared for 30 minutes, with no apparent explanation. What starts out as quick investigation ends up having catastrophic consequences for the time travellers.
But the reason for the probe’s disappearance sounds a little too familiar for the Doctor…