This is the one with the Bulldog’s danglees, a box that everyone wants into, a MILF of a Wilf, Dalek plunger action, a Monty Python mum, and lots of innuendos. This time they’re not laughing with you, they’re making you laugh. Here we go.
WHO BACK WHEN: OPERATION PANDORICA (Four Parts) — Great!
[cue title music]
They made a podcast, it’s okay, but now they think they’re movie stars. Out-ing daleks, Wilfred nude, Rory’s such a lonely dude. The doctor’s hiding in plain sight, and Churchill he can’t sleep at night. She’s MI-5 and now she’s stuck, the braces guy is out of luck. Op-er-a-tion, from the guys at Who Back When. Pan-dor-ic-a. It’s an audio pro-duc-tion.
The Daleks want pandorica. There’s ginger girl, but it’s not her. Is it good, well we shall see, cause here’s a review for all to see, It’s Who fan fun! (Who fan fun).
[end title music]
The BSCoW (Beschouw)
Rory Williams is a [sort of] man with a task. He stands vigilant throughout the centuries, guarding the one thing in the universe that means more to him than… well… anything else in the universe. Wilfred Mott (currently a young adult) is out to have some respectful fun, but when he stumbles upon Rory and his noble cause, he can’t help from… well… helping in any way he can. For a small band of Daleks is out to take control of what they consider to be the most dangerous weapon in the universe. Unfortunately they’ve lost a few screws and… well… are acting a bit screwy (uh-huh, uh-huh).
[It’s over, you’re welcome… you’re just welcome]
Okay, I want to start this off with a question. How many of us figured this was just going to be a total sham, just a mess of an audio drama with childish dirty jokes, and silly character names and just making fun at the whole Doctor Who thing in general?
Yes! Me too! I totally expected that. That’s kind of what it is. It’s exactly what I expected. And yet, it’s not. It’s not what I expected at all. Because beyond the jokes, many of which fly by so subliminally that you probably didn’t even notice them, there’s this whole other thing I didn’t expect. There’s an interesting story, there’s tension, there’s acting and an entire production for that matter that is taken so seriously (and yet not) that it makes for a great tale as well as a bunch of smiles. I laughed, and I cared what happened to the characters (mostly), and that makes for a great little production.
Starting at the bottom of my notes, the third smartest thing Who Back When could have done is make a story where the Doctor barely appears at all, or works behind the scenes. Check! The second smartest thing would have been to take some popular characters from Who history and combine them in a way that has never been seen before, yet still tells a tale that totally could have happened in the Who universe when the cameras weren’t rolling. Check on that too. However the smartest thing they could possibly have done is opted for what amounts to an enhanced audio book format, as opposed to a full-on audio drama. It’s a fine distinction but let’s say that the difference to me is that one is presented as if someone was reading a book, and many of the scenes were acted by a supporting cast. In contrast, an audio drama is like someone is performing a stage play in the dark. You’re not going to get anyone reading long paragraphs. Anyway, it was an incredibly wise choice that WBW adopted the former format. Because of this choice they were able to inject some of the podcast’s personality into the production as well. The straight up comedy / serious split just wouldn’t have succeeded otherwise.
The writing has so many levels to it it’s not even funny. Okay well it is funny, that’s the lowest form, but that’s woven into a storyline where characters have emotions, and we feel for them. On top of that it has an introspective layer to it. It’s complete. It tells a story about a specific set of characters in a time and place, develops both, wraps it up adequately and moves on. Then there’s a bit of thought about the 2nd World War, and some exploration of what life was like at that time. On top of that, there are moments of self-awareness, when the production even references Who Back When, which is then in turn, worked back in as a story element. Finally we round it all out with explorations and enhancements of no less than three separate adventures of the Doctor Who television series itself.
It’s not perfect. There’s an excessive amount of dialog. That should probably be forgiven, because as mentioned earlier this is more of an enhanced book than a drama, but the same argument could be used against comparing it to full-on fan audio dramas. (This is an argument by the way, which I’m choosing to ignore.) In the first three parts, there were opportunities for some action and suspense that were not fully taken advantage of. There are also some extraneous bits that take too long to pay off, and there’s a final fight where one party just kind of gets left behind, albeit for bigger-picture, continuity reasons. Even with all that though, Operation Pandorica, is easily one of the best FIRST productions of any Doctor Who fan audio I’ve heard, and in many ways ranks up there with the best of them in general. An argument could be made that listeners who have never heard the podcast before may want to knock off half a point, but I don’t think so. I truly think this is a story that could appeal to all fans of new-Who (over a certain age) whether they listen to the podcast or not. Because in the end, it all just works for what it is, and what is is, and what it is, is just brilliant.
Part I (21 minutes)
The three main parties converge on the warehouse. Oh yeah, and there are Germans too, sort of. It is WWII after all. The Daleks close in on the box. Edwin’s life takes a really, really big turn for the worse.
Winnie’s notes. Everyone ignores the tooth! Can I watch? The “Plan B” discussion. Eleven’s final chat with Fred. Wilf’s final adventure is his first.
Why is there so much talk about how heavy the door is? Who is breaking through what door gets a little confusing. It took me two listens to figure out why Churchill isn’t in the final battle. Although Braceface becomes much more interesting later on, his character never really pays off in this story. He needed a better arc. Were the screams recorded late at night when the actors didn’t want to wake anyone up? It’s not clear when Rory uses his hand weapon. Again, more sound effects would have helped. Eileen’s leaving her job seems strictly in the interest of a “leave everything as it began” reset. Four entire episodes and neither I (nor other faithful podcast listeners) was ever asked to contribute a bit part.
The innuendos seem to have mostly died away, even though there are tons of opportunities. This totally provides Braceface and the Daleks more depth the next time we see them. I never got the whole thing about the real and fake universe thing in the television series, but the description in this episode sorts it all out perfectly. NOT!