Day of the Cockroach returns to first principles with a relatively simple base under siege adventure which begins with the Doctor and friends standing in a tunnel over the mutilated body of a soldier, quickly and inevitably accused of murder by his colleagues and shipped off to captivity and interrogation. Slowly details of the status quo emerge. They’re trapped in a nuclear bunker, amongst some very frightened humans who’ve just heard a four minute warning heralding an atomic war. Except, it’s also 1982 and even the Whoniverse, that didn’t happen.
The marketing synopsis is surprisingly coy on the topic given the play’s title, but on top of the all pervading sense of dread, the complex is also overrun with giant cockroaches (an interesting scheduling choice from AudioGo given last month’s audio exclusive was also about an infestation of mutant creepy crawlies) which gives the story a vibe not unlike The Ark in Space, though the cast waiting to be picked off, apart from the military contingent, are generally from the ruling classes rather than scientists, the local mayor and a city councillor amongst the potential victims, both unlucky to be touring the bunker when the emergency occurred.
Lyons has been one of the more prolific Who spin-off writers across the years, contributing at least a couple of stories to each of the major lines through the wilderness decades and beyond, including one of my all time favourites, The Witch Hunters (First Doctor meets the Salem trials). He’s also presently a contributor to the Doctor Who Adventures strip and it's that strip's clear narrative and characterisation which he brings to Day of the Cockroach, allowing some space for political rumination but mainly providing an entertaining romp.
Arthur Darvill’s been one of the range’s busiest readers and with a few exceptions, there’s always something extra-specially more authentic about having one of the main cast reading these as evidenced by his uncanny rendering of Amy's accent and the Doctor's absent-minded chicanery. But he clearly enjoys voicing all of the characters, giving the mayor some Boris bluster and a slightly satirical twang to the army officers. His shift between them and Rory once again demonstrates that his characterisation of Mr Williams is very much a set of choices, he’s not simply “being himself” as his reputation might have it. He’ll be missed when he’s gone.
Doctor Who: Day of the Cockroach by Steve Lyons is published by AudioGo on the 3rd May 2012. Review copy supplied.