her-in-doors’ doors

TV With the television shifting to a more serialised format and shorter series, these spin-off stories have become the primary expression of the more traditional stand alone or monster of the week format with the TARDIS acting as a time travelling taxi whisking the Doctor and his friends between adventures that begin with them stumbling nervously from her-in-doors’ doors, confidently striding back in again having saved a planet from whatever nasty is afflicting them.

The opening scenes of Darren Jones's The Eye of the Jungle are redolent of sixties Who, as the TARDIS team plunge into the Amazon rainforest in 1827, though the wild animals they greet are far deadlier than the droopy elephant in The Ark. But there’s much fun to be had in the reactions of the Doctor’s companions as the Time Lord frightens the life from them, bursting in and out of the local fauna though eventually they become something's prey.

Luckily they're stumbled upon by a hunting party collecting specimens for the soon to be opened London Zoo, Oliver Bazington a big gamer, and Garrett, the naturalist accompanying him. Bazington is still smarting from the Napoleonic wars and the Doctor shares a mutual understanding of the horrors of war. But they’re not the only hunters in the jungle and as local villagers and wildlife begin to disappear, our heroes find themselves targeted by an assailant unknown.

As is usual with these stories, the action is so brief that to describe further – and I’ve reached the end of the synopsis on the back of the box – would ruin the few surprises that lay ahead. Spreading his story across two cds and two forty-five minute episodes, Jones takes the lead of the Moffat era and gives each part a distinctive tone, the later inevitable alien introduction echoing the concerns of their human counterparts to a horrific degree.

Obviously given the influence of his Dad on the Eleventh Doctor, there are moments, particularly when the Doctor's at his most desperate, when Troughton’s readings of Matt’s intended lines come eerily close to Patrick. For the most part, he simply gives Jones’s story the fireside treatment, only giving each character the hint of an accent, though he’s hampered by some slightly generic writing in relation to the companions, neither really registering proper Amy or proper Rory.

On the upside, his characterisation of Blazington really captures the spirit of the army man attempting find a workable substitute for fighting for his country. Troughton's reading of his words, brings to mind the clipped, forthright tone of Edward Woodward in Breaker Morant. None of the other characters are quite as vivid, Garrett in particular barely given enough time to register as a proper antagonist, despite his prominence in the inlay's synopsis.

Indeed this is pretty thin stuff overall, lacking the wit, depth or innovation of a James Goss text (for example). Long time fans may even groan when they realise which “classic” era story the central idea behind The Eye of the Jungle most resembles, hoping against hope its chief villain doesn’t also put in an appearance. At least that earlier story had unpredictability in its favour. Once the necessary exposition is gotten over with here, the story can only go in one, unsurprising, direction.

Perhaps us older listeners should keep in mind that the intended audience for this cd probably skews far younger than us, and there are might be enough elements in the second half to creep out an imaginative pre-teen. As a bedtime or car journey diversion it’s probably perfectly fine. It just lacks the same ambition as its televisual counterpart and if this kind of release is to become the stand-alone surrogate, it has to try that little bit harder than this to impress..

Doctor Who: The Eye of the Jungle is released by AudioGo on the 7th July 2011.  Review copy supplied.

No comments:

Post a comment