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By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Friday 14 October 2016
Rating:   6

"Scavenger" is disappointing for all the things it could have been. The basic story is a nice hard-science, near-future, space is dangerous type of adventure along the lines of Ben Bova or Martin Caidin. Doctor 6 and Flip land on a space station observation module in time to see a joint venture operation between the Indian and British space agencies. Then, the operation goes wrong and it is a race against time to fix the problem. If only William Gallagher had stuck to that idea, this would have been a breakthrough work potentially taking Doctor Who down a new avenue of more science-based and less magic-based stories. But then, he just couldn't resist piling more stuff onto the plot and introducing magic once more. In this case, the pile involves an alien scavenger robot woken up through the Doctor's efforts to save the space station. OK. That would be fine, a new problem to deal with. However, it turns out that this robot had visited India 400 years earlier and turned a prince into an immortal, and this prince is now a flight mission engineer using the space program to retrieve his beloved from the alien robot ship. Aargh. After being very careful in building up a realistic scenario, Gallagher adds this silliness? There are a couple of other problem areas in this story. One is that in the near future, apparently, computers will be these magical entities that can reprogram space ship flight paths within a few seconds and do so with immense precision. Everything involving the space station, rockets, and missiles happens too quickly. Another trouble spot is Colin Baker's continued overpronounciation of the name Jyoti. Baker is an excellent voice actor overall, and otherwise is fabulous in this production, but this little hitch became annoying to me after a time. The production is not a total disaster. Flip really comes out as a strong character in this one, much more fully a person than in some of her earlier stories. The Indian aspects of the story provide a welcome relief from the sometimes stifling focus on matters British in Doctor Who. It's good to bring in the rest of the world. And the main premise of space missions to remove orbiting space junk is itself quite interesting.

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