AUDIO REVIEW: Domain of the Voord

Domain of the Voord
by Andrew Smith

Starring William Russell and Carole Ann Ford

Out Now

Review by Nick Fraser

Some fifty years after their only televisual appearance, it was about time someone did something about Terry Nation’s "Other Monsters". So, flap those flippers and point those rubber protuberances and step into the limelight, it’s…The Voord! Defeated by the Doctor and the TARDIS Originals on the planet Marinus, Yartek and his small band of Voord creatures provided an ill-defined and faintly comical form of villainy, skulking around at the beginning and end of The Keys of Marinus.

Set on the largely oceanic world of Hydra, the TARDIS crew arrive on board a boat, one of hundreds forming a flotilla escaping subjugation by a considerably more dangerous and numerous Voord presence. This four-part adventure sets off at a rattling pace with the Doctor, Barbara, Susan and Ian forced by circumstances to join the Hydrans’ desperate attempts led by Admiral Jonas Kaan to survive underwater Voord attack.

William Russell and Carole Ann Ford put in some excellent work early on, providing energetic readings for their respective characters, and alternating in narration duties. It’s a particular treat to hear again Russell’s interpretation of William Hartnell’s Doctor: he really nails the latter’s blend of domineering irascibility, bluster and waspish humour.

By the end of the first episode, the outlook for the TARDIS crew and the Hydran fleet is grim. Following a sustained underwater Voord attack (backed by some atmospherically eerie soundtracking), the Hydran flagship is sunk and The Doctor and Barbara are gone, feared drowned.

With the TARDIS also lost to the ocean’s depths, the story’s pace shifts as over a period of months Ian and Susan begin the long adjustment to their new, fugitive way of Hydran life on the ocean wave, together with their single Voord captive, Nebrin. As Ian and Susan find out more about the Voord from their captive, so does the listener with dark hints from Nebrin of the “harvesting” of Hydra’s population.

Having gained the trust of the Hydran leadership, Ian convinces Admiral Kaan that it’s time to take the fight to the Voord on land, and the flotilla makes for Predora, the occupied capital city. The deserted streets and buildings don’t remain empty for long, as the full and awful extent of Voord occupation is revealed.

The TARDIS crew are particularly proactive throughout this adventure, with first Ian and latterly The Doctor involved in leading Hydran efforts against their extra-terrestrial invaders. The duration of the story allows for some in depth exploration of the realities of survival under an oppressive regime, the compromises taken to ensure survival, and an examination of the motivations of the Voord, viewed particularly through Susan and Ian’s subtly different perspectives.

However no rollicking good Who adventure would be quite complete without some exuberant evil-doing, and that’s provided in the form of Overlord Tarlak. If Nebrin embodies an almost honourable example of his race, Tarlak provides the shoutier, declamatory side of the Voord psyche, clearly revelling in it as he does so.

It soon becomes horribly apparent that whilst Tarlak and Nebrin are of the “true bloodline”, the vast majority of the occupying Voord force on Hydra masks a deeper horror within. There’s a lot more to becoming a Voord than just strapping on the rubber suit and popping on an outsize rubber mask…

Unfolding against a “vintage/futuristic” backdrop populated by sleek submersibles, giant airships and the mysterious “Sea Engine”, the adventure rounds off in style with a classic race against time with the Doctor and his friends battling to stop the Overlord Tarlak’s Grand Plan from reaching fruition.

The cast of Domain of the Voord provide strong performances, maintaining the listener’s involvement throughout the adventure. It’s a testament to the quality of writing and production that a strikingly visual but otherwise forgettable creature such as the Voord can be resurrected so effectively in the audio medium.

Yet another excellent addition to the Doctor Who audio universe.

Thanks to Big Finish

Review by Nick Fraser

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