Paul McGann - The Doctor
Sheridan Smith - Lucie Miller
Bernard Cribbins - Arnold Korns
Stephen Gately - Tommy Tomorrow
Clare Buckfield - Trisha Tomorrow
Whilst looking for a bite to eat, the Doctor and new companion, Lucie Miller, arrive at a Motorway Service Station on the M62 during a terrible blizzard. Also en-route to the Service Station is star-making music manager, Arnold Korns, and his latest signings, Trisha and Tommy Tomorrow, ready to make their debut on Top of the Pops. However, outside in the snow and darkness is a dangerous threat - a pack of alien monsters that threaten to bring a sudden halt to the careers of these fledgling Glam Rockers...
The idea of a remote Service Station under siege by alien creatures is very reminiscent of the classic 'base under siege' storylines that were used during the Second Doctor's era such as: The Moonbase, Fury from the Deep and The Ice Warriors. Unfortunately, the story doesn't have the benefit of a multi-part serial to build up the suspense and instead, throws itself straight into the action and is finished within the hour, which is the equivalent of a two episode storyline in the classic series. As a result the story felt like a mish-mash of 'Classic Who' storytelling, mixed with the format and modern approach of the current series.
We're quickly introduced to the cast of supporting characters: Flo, Pat, Arnold Korns, Trisha and Tommy Tomorrow, as well as a few extras who are effectively 'Monster Meals' with several lines. Each of the characters was easily identifiable by their voices, which is something that can cause issues if several characters sound similar to each other. I really liked the character of Arnold Korns, played well by Bernard Cribbins who managed to chew on the audio scenery when on-air. While I wasn't entirely convinced by his change of heart mid-way through the story, I was impressed by Cribbins' acting range in playing a different character to the one he would eventually play on-screen, Donna Noble's grandfather, Wilfred Mott.
I enjoyed Stephen Gately's performance as Tommy Tomorrow and while I initially thought, "Wow, a member of Boyzone playing an Irish musician, that's original", Gately managed to put a lot of originality into the role and played Tommy really well, giving him both depth and a mysterious otherworldly quality that I wasn't expected from reading the inlay sleeve.
The tone of the story is hard to define as it's a strange balance of both comedy and horror with the unusual setting and references to 70's Glam Rock and the horror of bear-like creatures attempting to smash their way in and devour the humans inside. The death sequences seemed to be played for laughs with the over-the-top screaming and crunching sound effects used, along with the jokes prior to them, such as when Arnold observes Ron the Roadie making a run for it: "Maybe he'll make it" and then we hear the sound of crunching as Arnold adds, "But then again..."
I liked Paul McGann's performance of the Doctor and the dynamic between him and Lucie. There is more of his personality shining through her than did in his initial TV appearance, and I wonder if that is true for the audio dramas set prior to this series. I like his sarcastic approach at times, however, there were a few moments that seemed a little out of character for the Doctor. For example, he didn't seem too bothered about the implications of Lucie meeting her future aunt and the paradoxical possibilities of such a meeting, but this may be explored in further detail in future audio adventures. I also thought it was a bit mean of the Doctor to acknowledge that Tommy wanted nothing more to travel the galaxy and promptly offer the same opportunity to Lucie instead. Surely, he could have given Tommy a give 'once around the block'.
Overall, this was a fun little adventure which took the Doctor Who trope of the base under siege and gave it an unusual setting in both time and space. The setting of a Motorway Service Station is really quite inspired as it is a very British tradition and evokes that feeling of isolation that a good 'base under siege' story needs. I also really enjoyed the Bowie-esque incidental music (and Glam Rock closing theme!), especially during Arnold Korns' speech to the rampaging monsters as he stays behind to buy the rest of the group time - it felt very much like David Bowie's Life On Mars as the music swells.
The CD closes with a trailer for the next adventure, Immortal Beloved, which sounds like a Romeo & Juliet love story set on an alien world with a Greek God twist. I'll be interested to see whether it comes across like a typical Doctor Who story or not.