Hothouse – Part One

The classic series of Doctor Who always liked to comment on social issues and a favourite topic was always the environment. Hothouse is a natural continuation of a popular theme with the added bonus of a returning foe, The Krynoid last seen in The Seeds of Doom.

The blurb for this one states that somewhere in the south of England stands the Hothouse. Five vast, state-of-the-art biodomes, all steel and glass. Inside, rock star turned environmental activist Alex Marlow has a plan to save the world from climate change. By any means necessary…There’s something growing inside the Hothouse. Something that could turn back humanity’s tide. A voracious alien vegetable called the Krynoid. The Doctor’s going to have to stop it. Stop Marlow. Stop Marlow’s fanatical acolyte, Lucie Miller…

With a dream cast and a strong script Hothouse Part One is a belter of an Eighth Doctor episode that doesn’t rely on elaborate set-ups or over complicated plot. It also has the added bonus of having U.N.I.T. attached to it. The Pertwee years are felt throughout this with McGann transforming into Dr John Smith so he can investigate some strange organic goings on. He seems to relish this slight change of character style for the Doctor is slightly more pompous here making it fresh and quite fun. Sheridan Smith also has more to do than stand around adding Cockney charm to the proceedings. Lucie is ballsy without being too abrupt and is far more interesting in this slightly toned down version.

For writer Jonathan Morris to be able to make a very visual monster effective in an audio only format is quite a feat and the quality of production also helps make the bush-styled baddies very scary. Sound effects are delicately placed, here for the atmosphere rather than shock value, one scene in particular (where infected people are stored) is a Big Finish classic and a new benchmark in audio drama.

Of course there are similarities to The Seeds of Doom including a wonderful megalomaniac in the form of Nigel Planer’s Alex Marlow, you can imagine his sneer as he performs some rather delicious lines of dialogue. Adna Sablyich as Ondrak keeps the 70’s feel to the episode with an accent so thick she out does the Krynoids at one point. But back to the story which is filled with witty and deep dialogue and although not a lot really happens the cast performances make every minute a joy.

Hothouse Part One ends us with a rather juicy traditional cliffhanger harking back to my halcyon days of weekly half-hour Who. A must for classic Doctor Who lovers out there as this is a story that really does live up to expectations.

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