The winner of the Paul Spragg Memorial Short Trip Opportunity makes a splash in his debut Doctor Who story.

Ronald Henderson is an old sailor, forced into retirement under suspicious circumstances. But he’s put his past behind him and settled into civilian life as a pub landlord. One day, he crosses paths with another old seadog washed ashore and stranded. The pair form a bond that gives them both a new perspective on their landlocked lives.

Examining Exile

Selim Ulug’s winning entry proves a charming character story, examining a period of the Doctor’s life that often goes unexplored. Ulug has built a thoroughly relatable character in Henderson as our perspective to what he and the Doctor are going through. The audience is able to form an instant liking for Henderson in how he first meets the Doctor. As the story progresses we get a sense of who Henderson is in very natural ways. His interactions with his bar staff, in particular, go a long way to fleshing him out as a character. Despite my  fears, Ulug avoids the cliché of the Doctor fixing all of Henderson’s problems. While the Doctor was involved, the resolution is a satisfying conclusion for Henderson’s character because the decision is entirely his.

Doubting Ronald

There’s also a keen sense for narration and description on display, including a vividly drawn scene of Henderson recounting the events that lost him his command. Ulug never lets us forget that this is an account filtered through Henderson’s perceptions. There’s no sense that this is a “flashback”. So there’s room for the audience to doubt what he’s telling us even as the Doctor nods along. For all we know of the Doctor Who universe, making us doubt a man’s sincerity about an alien attack is a tricky feat that Ulug pulls off skilfully.

Reverse the Polarity

Nicholas Briggs, executive producer and renowned voiceman, provides the narration on this story. It’s not unusual for Briggs to voice the Doctor in the Short Trips or Chronicles range. However, this is the first time he’s voiced the Third Doctor on audio. Jon Pertwee played the Doctor in a way that can easily come across as parody when imitated. However, Briggs found a balance to represent the Third Doctor in a believable way. He also injects a lot of emotion into Henderson, which was essential for this story to work.

Overall

An terrific short story, ‘Landbound’ is full of great characterisation, rich imagery and a new insight on the Doctor. Selim Ulug’s story was chosen for the Paul Spragg Memorial Short Trips Opportunity – an annual chance to submit ideas to Big Finish. The writing opportunity is run in memory of Big Finish production assistant Paul Spragg, who passed away in 2014. As producer Ian Atkins explains, Paul was always encouraging new writers and this is a way to continue that. Since, this year, it has resulted in as well-rounded a story as ‘Landbound’, it seems as though that spirit carries on.

Blogtor Rating: 10/10

‘Landbound’ is available to download now for free from the Big Finish website.

Synopsis

Doctor Who: Short Trips Monthly is a series of new short stories read by an original cast member. This special release is a Third Doctor story, and is offered as a free download via the Paul Spragg Short Trips Memorial Opportunity in 2017.

He was the captain of a ship once. Since being stripped of his authority, he is lost. Landbound. Then he meets a kindred spirit, a man who has also lost something.

In a small seaside town, both Ronald Henderson and the Doctor want to move forward, but one of them must first come to terms with his past…

Producer Ian Atkins
Script Editor Ian Atkins
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

Written By: Selim Ulug
Directed By: Neil Gardner

Cast

Nicholas Briggs (Narrator)

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