Doctor Who: Red
by Stewart Sheargold
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Stewart Sheargold sure knows how to write a creepy story. His audios aren't necessarily Big Finish's scariest, but they're among the most unsettling, tending to feature alien things that get into the fabric of the characters' worlds, and get into their heads. And then sometimes turn out not to be so alien after all. Red
finds the Doctor and Mel arriving in the Needle, a habitat where a computer controls all the inhabitants by means of chips implanted in their brains to suppress their urge for violence. With a setup like that, the story seems constantly in danger of straying into direct ethical debate, with characters arguing with each other about whether the capacity for violence is a necessary part of being human. However, this is offset somewhat by Sheargold's characterization - none of the characters come across as merely a mouthpiece for a debating position.
The story has some nice twists - there were two points where I thought I'd figured out what the resolution was going to be, and I was wrong both times. There's some business involving time travel and a drug called "slow", which I thought was confusing and mostly served to provide a technobabbly way for the Doctor to dispose of the baddy at the end.
And a nitpick: While it is lovely to see Mel's computer programming skills get a nod, it's not really reasonable to expect a computer programmer from 1986 to be able to nearly instantly hack an unfamiliar computer system from centuries in her future. But, hey, it's Doctor Who
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