Babblesphere is what some may describe as a perfect homage to the Fourth Doctor. In the middle of a volcanic inferno stands an exact replica of the palace of Versailles and inside that, there’s a mystery. The crumbling palace contains people that are slaves to technology; more importantly, they’re slaves to a futuristic social network. They dress as if they’re in the 16th century but talk as if they’re in the future, it’s all very Douglas Adams which is extremely appropriate considering that a Jonathan Morris story has many parallels to Adam’s era as script editor and writer for Doctor Who.
The first three offerings in the Destiny of the Doctor series have been solid examples of the era they intend to represent, albeit a mixed bag; here Morris gives us the Fourth Doctor at his most comedic and most serious and his most well represented. Adams’ work on Doctor Who included the The Pirate Planet, City of Death and Shada as well as a huge influence on the scripts that he edited during Season 17 of the show. Each tale that he had a hand in mixed swift one-liners with sizzling dialogue and Babblesphere gives a solid nod to that skill.
Writer Jonathan Morris has taken this successful formula and created a pitch perfect recreation of the Adams Era. The Fourth Doctor we are given is zany yet serious, Romana is the voice of aristocratic reason and authority and the story is a classic slice of Doctor Who that never existed on the screen but-feels-like-it-did. Mad robots and sentient beings with far too much self-awareness then they should be allowed to have add a wonderful gold crown to this brilliant story. It also helps that Morris’ tale takes marvellous aim at the very thing that everyone can relate to at the moment, social networking. From the first scene where a dying man insists on updating his death throws for the entire network to follow (with hash tags and all) to the dramatic showdown at the end which is summed up by a popular (and very annoying) internet phrase.
Steven Moffat’s opening tale for Series 7b of Doctor Who was a horrific tale about the power of the internet and our reliance on it. Dare we say it, Jonathan Morris has come up with something that may be even more original and even more satisfying than merely just a dig at Twitter. All of this is even more exciting with the rich and wonderful vocal talents of Lalla Ward as she narrates the story with her usual style and panache that we’ve come to expect from her.
Babblesphere continues to delight and engage for its entire run time and the obligatory cameo from the Eleventh Doctor towards the end is also very funny, with a list of top monsters ending up as you may not expect it to. Morris has managed to recreate a specific period for Doctor Who with a story that could easily fit into the era it’s based on, even though the ideas are very 21st Century.
Brave Mr Morris, bravo.
Babblesphere is available on CD or via download from Big Finish now.