Doctor Who Review: Main Range #16: Storm Warning

As of this writing Storm Warning is currently up for free on Spotify and as a result I will be giving this review a big Spoiler warning and a mini spoiler free review in this first paragraph in case one wishes to hear the adventure for themselves. What Storm Warning lacks in interesting villains or compelling side characters it makes up for in a fun setting, and a great introduction to two new leads for the Big Finish Main Range in The Eighth Doctor and Charley Pollard, a duo who will go onto become fan favorites in subsequent adventures.

Storm Warning written by Alan Barnes and directed by Gary Russell is the story of The Doomed Airship the R101, her crew and their secret mission involving aliens, The Doctor trying to solve the mystery of what the crew is up to, and Charlotte Pollard’s first taste of adventure.

Main Characters: The Doctor: Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor gets a great reintroduction in this story. McGann who is playing the character for the second time hits the ground running. His Doctor is looser than McCoy’s Seventh. His manipulative and master planner tendencies are swapped out for a lack of focus (he stops looking for his TARDIS manuel as soon as a time ship hounded by Vortisaurs catches his eye) and a more by the seat of one’s pants approach to whatever is happening. He’s also incredibly charming winning over Charley after one conversation and convincing the R101’s leader Lord Tambry to accept his assistance even while Tambry believes he’s a German spy named Johann Schmidt (heh.) The Eighth Doctor is my second favorite of all Doctors and I usually steer newcomers to this audio (and Chimes Of Midnight) instead of the TV movie when I want to introduce them to him.
Charley Pollard: India Fisher’s Charley Pollard is an adventurous and witty young Victorian Woman determined to become the best Adventuress the world has ever seen. She gets more than she bargained for however when she stows away on the R101 impersonating a steward and meets the Doctor for the first time. Fisher’s performance is suitably sharp and quick witted and her chemistry with McGann is fantastic really selling the rapid friendship and instant trust between the two characters. We also get the first hints as to Charley’s mysterious relationship with time at the end. The Mystery of Charley which gets explained in the subsequent episodes about the duo will play similarly to the mystery surrounding Clara Oswald as she traveled with the 11th Doctor for modern viewers.

Side Characters: The side characters composing entirely of the R101’s crew and four individual aliens are (for the most part) sadly not very interesting. The voice actors across the board all give great performances but the characterization they are given is very flat as they are all essentially stock roles just slotted into the appropriate areas. The villains are even worse. Peter Rathbone the spy just sneers all the time and gets in the way. The story tries to play his possession off with pathos but it is so quickly done and over with (he kills the Triskele possessing him less than an hour after his mind is invaded) that the whole affair just comes off as a distraction. The main alien adversaries for the adventure the Triskele are even worse. Their whole thing is literally summed up by their name. A race separated into three parts. The peaceful lameduck inventors known as Creators, the aggressive flatly evil conquers known as Uncreators, and the sole leader of them all called The Law Giver. So far the Triskele only appear in this story and all they do is serve as a cliche mirror of humanity’s own contradictory nature as creators and uncreators. Also their voices are fine but not very special essentially just being the voice actor’s voice fed through filters to make it sound alien. The only truly great characters in this category are the Vortisaurs. Vortisaurs or Pterosauria vortexfera are essentially time Pterodactyls who live in the Time Vortex scavenging wrecks for food. The Doctor manages to tame one later named Ramses by Charley and it is with him that our dynamic duo escape the crashing dirigible. The sound work for the Vortisaurs is great too their chirps, squeals and growls manage to be menacing, cute, and cutely menacing. In my opinion a better version of Storm Warning would have cut the Triskele entirely for a more monster horror story where a Vortisaur gets stuck on the R101 too unbeknownst to the Doctor and starts picking off the crew one by one and slowly dragging the ship onwards to its doom.

Conclusion: Storm Warning is a fun introduction to two great characters and one fun new monster surrounded by stock assets in the Doctor Who developers kit. I do recommend listening to it though as it is only about two hours

Final Observations:

  • The story’s only connection to real facts is the time and date of the R101’s crash. Literally everything else has been changed right down to the casualties report as six people survived the crash in real life while here it is said everyone onboard perished
  • The Doctor is alone at the start of this story. The EDA’s were still being written when this came out and as a result this story is set both some vague time after those and in a different continuity entirely.
  • The Doctor offhandedly mentions while flipping through his books on the TARDIS that the introduction to Frankenstein talking about the night of ghost stories when it was written listed an inaccurate amount of house guests. Two versions of that night exist in Doctor Who both involving The Doctor. The future Eighth Doctor Audio Mary’s Story and the 13th Doctor Episode The Haunting Of Villa Diodati. Both stories come highly recommended by me