Image Credit: Big Finish (Fair Use)
Image Description: The cover of He Kills Me, He Kills Me Not
By John Salway
Name: He Kills Me, He Kills Me Not
Type: Audio Drama
Price: £10.99 on CD, £8.99 for download
Current TLV investment: £114.92
After dipping their toes into the Time Lord Victorious waters with their Master duology, Big Finish are now diving fully into the saga with a trio of hour-long audio dramas starring Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor, and we start the trilogy by finding out just how Brian the Ood ended up back in the Dark Times…
He Kills Me, He Kills Me Not sets out its stall fairly quickly; this is going to be a futuristic, Doctor Who take on a Western. But it makes this clear in a disappointingly cliché manner. The Doctor arrives on the planet Atharna, a huge desert where the citizens talk in deep southern American accents, and the local amenities include a Saloon and a Clinic. The local law enforcer is a Sheriff, and all in town repeat that they “don’t want any trouble”. It’s all so two-dimensional and predictable. I was half-expecting a twist that this was some kind of Westworld-style theme park, or a historical re-enactment gone wrong, but no, it’s exactly what it appears to be, with scant few sci-fi twists on the formula. This has the further impact that when some futuristic technology does make an appearance, it becomes pretty clear its going to be important to the plot later on.
While the Doctor is bemused that Altharna is not the watery world it should be, he ends up entangled in Brian the Ood’s latest contract, and must protect the assassination target and her wife from Brian’s sinister clutches. Thankfully, Brian is just as much of a treat on audio as he was in prose, with Silas Carson taking the ball he’s been thrown and running with it. He is charming and ferocious in equal measure, and proves to be well-deserving of the spotlight in this adventure. What I found quite a pleasant surprise was just how much emotion Brian expresses throughout – The Knight, The Fool and the Dead gave Brian more of a sardonic, dry sort of demeanour, but here, Brian is much less cool, absolutely determined to see his contract through.
Thus, it’s another bit of a disappointment that the Doctor and Brian spent so little time in each other’s company. It may fit the Western vibe to have the two rivals preparing separately for an eventual showdown, but if you’re promising me a conflict between them, then that’s really what I want to see as the focus. Instead, the Doctor spends a lot of time gathering information, getting to know the townsfolk – there really is surprisingly little action. Events come to a head in an annoyingly brief climax, and before you know it the Doctor and Brian are already off, getting themselves into position for their respective next stories. It all feels quite slight and unessential.
He Kills Me, He Kills Me Not is a story that has all of the ingredients to be a great success, but a reliance on cliches and not enough risk-taking mean the end result is just okay, despite the best efforts of all in the cast. This is not the exciting, cat-and-mouse game that I was hoping for, and really, Brian deserves better.