If you’re a follower of this little blog of mine you will notice my last three audio reviews have all been 100/100s and two of them have been from the main range. …ish came after two powerhouse stories, Spare Parts, the story that tells the genesis of the Cybermen and was written by Marc Platt, and Neverland the powerhouse finale to the second season of Eighth Doctor Adventures which sets up the 40th Anniversary story to come. This is important to notice as …ish is a story that people don’t really like which is a shame and I beg you reader to take a second glance at it because I think you will find that it has an almost perfect set up for the team of the Sixth Doctor and Peri. The plot involves the Doctor and Peri going to a meeting of lexicographers where Professor Osefa, an old friend of the Doctor’s, is trying to determine the longest word in the universe, the literal first word with the help of Book, a supercomputer designed as an enormous dictionary when suddenly she commits suicide with her note containing several spelling mistakes and it is up to the Doctor to find the murderer, yes it was a murder and not a suicide. This uncovers a conspiracy about the ish which is one syllable that starts to infect everyone at the conference as it apparently has no real meaning, even though it has to have a meaning.
Author Phil Pascoe really knows his Doctor Who as the structure of the story is very standard, yet mixed somehow with the inaugural Sherlock Holmes novel A Study in Scarlet, but he understands his characters completely well. Colin Baker’s Doctor is right in his element as, like Banto Zame said in The One Doctor, talking to him is like talking to a thesaurus and so he knows just how many words he can use. The Doctor relishes the chance to solve a murder involving language as he loves language to the highest degree. Colin Baker just is in love with this script as he has so many chances to flex his vocabulary and as Baker is a fan of puns and wordplay and Pascoe knows how to do wordplay the dialogue in this story is the best part of the thing. Nicola Bryant as Peri is also really good here as everything feels like she and her relationship with the Doctor is straight before The Mysterious Planet which could have helped the show save itself from cancellation. Peri feels like a real person in this story which I love because really Nicola Bryant is a good actress when she gets good material to work with and here she has stuff to work with. There is also a highlight with Peri having an almost romantic relationship with Warren.
Warren is basically the lexicographer’s equivalent of an anarchist as he wants to destroy everything to find the omniverbon which would destroy the universe. His relationship with Peri is manipulative to the point of abuse as he is working in the shadows to try and get everything to go his way. Pascoe also hit the jackpot in making this cast so small as there are really only two other characters. Cawdrey played by Oliver Hume who is the Doctor’s sidekick for the majority of the story until Peri gets her turn with Cawdrey. He is the weakest of this story’s characters as he really is there to fill the companion role of asking questions as Peri is being independent from the Doctor. There is also Book who is extremely witty for a supercomputer. Book is supposed to know everything about language even if as a computer he is unable to actually understand what words mean. His reactions to things have this sort of dry wit about them which I just really like.
The direction in this story is also great as Nicholas Briggs gets around exposition dumps by intercutting them to flashbacks or having the dialogue cut between the Doctor and Peri learning the situation to keep everything on its toes. Sadly this story has one major flaw in that it feels like it is from a first time writer which could have easily ruined this story. Warren’s plan doesn’t make sense and what does could easily lead to the universe being destroyed as Pascoe thinks that the stakes have to be the highest they can possibly be. The flashbacks can also get pretty boring even if it was a smart idea for Briggs to put them in. I don’t usually talk about the music, but it is usually some of the best parts about the story, but Neil Clappison’s score is really forgettable and I just feel like Clappison didn’t know what he was doing in this story.
To summarize, …ish is nowhere near as bad as people make it out to be and is in fact a good story with a cast that is having a blast recording their lines which causes a lot of good chemistry between characters. The only thing that lets this story down is that it reeks of first time writer syndrome and the music just doesn’t feel like it is meant for a Doctor Who story. 77/100