Who With so much new Doctor Who buzzing around at the moment in cd and book form, now is a great (and expensive) time to be a fan. The new online adventure Scream of the Shalka begins tonight and it's another fresh take which underlines simply how flexible this format can be. Something strange is happening in what looks like Lancashire, and The Doctor has been sent by powers unknown (I'm betting on The Timelords) to sort it out.

Someone once wrote that The Doctor is a fool proof role that anyone can play. I've never really agreed with that. Imagine most actors in room with Davros, Dalek creator and s/he'll be exterminated before they can get hissy. I'm pleased to say that Richard E Grant is still instantly The Doctor even in voice form. It's hard to believe he's never seen the show when he manages to cram in both a Pertwee-esque 'moment of charm' and that McCoy-like feeling that something else is going on that's none of our business. There is also real chemistry between Grant and new companion, Sophie Okenodo's Alison, and it'll be interesting to see what develops.

They're really helped by Paul Cornell's script, which somehow manages to offer something new and different without dashing away from the essential spirit of the show. Although the opening echoes Pertwee's first story Spearhead from Space, this is a very urban story, the Timelord drifting through a much larger modern landscape, and ironically for a cartoon some of the characterisation is more realistic than the TV series managed at times. Cornell has always been one of the most flexible Doctor Who writers and on the strength of this first episode, it's clear he's worked out yet another way of French polishing the police box. Really do hope they give him an episode of the new TV series to play about with.

The look of the piece is a quantum leap from the Shada remake (still online). Animated properly by Cosgrove Hall, the framing brings to mind Garry Trudeau's comic strip Doonesbury as well as some Anime, in its use of static figures moving within a space. The character designs are also good, especially Alison although The Doctor seems quite arch to me -- perhaps this'll be explained in future stories when he find out what he's been up to.

The Doctor is back ... again ... and he's looking really good for his age.

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