Doctor Who – Unregenerate!


Story 70
Written by David A. McIntee, directed by: John Ainsworth
Released June 2005

Fresh from her experience on the planet Lakertia, Melanie Bush is back on the planet Earth. But it’s not the right time period, everyone is obsessed with pop culture and reality television, making her feel more out of place than ever. When the TARDIS finally turns up, the Doctor is absent but in his place is a holographic recording telling her where to find him. Sadly, the Doctor has gone mad and is being held in a mysterious asylum.

With only an ex-bouncer turned cabbie for protection, Mel must free the Doctor and unravel the mad trap that he has found himself ensnared in. Unfortunately, this particular trap is a cat’s cradle that even the Doctor has become caught in. What hope can Mel have when the newly regenerated Doctor has gone insane?

This is a terribly unusual audio adventure set in a time when the program had completely reinvented itself as a soft harmless family entertainment with weird dark undertones. In addition, the companion Mel is, at best, controversial. Introduced as a successor to Nicola Bryant’s Peri, Mel is so traditionally English and sweet that she ends up appearing comical. To boot, her backstory makes absolutely no sense at all. A companion of the Sixth Doctor, she is first seen in a future adventure yet pulled out of time (along with Sabalon Glitz) at the conclusion of Trial of a Time Lord. In effect, she has no first adventure and no back story! As viewers we have no idea who she is or why she is traveling with the Doctor. She is also the only connecting thread to the Seventh Doctor from the past and in that sense she fails miserably.

An awkward screaming companion played by a sexless former child actress, Melanie Bush is one of those companion that fans wish never happened. But before you ditch her, you should hear her in these audio adventures where she shines most brilliantly. Appearing opposite both Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy, Mel is a superb companion on the Big Finish productions, full of fire and intelligence. She remains a homely kind of personality who is so pure and good that she becomes almost comical, but a more experienced Langford (and a better set of scripts) manages to breath some life into the character.

But you may ask yourself why I am spending so much time on Mel and the answer is that throughout most of Unregenerate!, the Doctor is a gibbering mess, spouting nonsense and helpless in the thrall of the facility he has become trapped in. Only Mel stands a chance of helping the Doctor out of the mess he has landed himself in, and as such she becomes terribly important.

The Seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) tries to make sense of himself

I wasn’t sure what to make of Unregenerate! as it was frankly a convoluted premise made all the more complicated by a non-linear narrative approach. This meant that the many pieces to the complex puzzle were arranged out of order. Even so, it’s a thrilling and inspired plot that utilizes McCoy range to the utmost. Granted, much of the story demands that McCoy echo the lines of his fellow cast members or speak in riddles, but when he finally ‘arrives,’ he is in fine form. Set in an early period of the Seventh Doctor’s reign, this version of the character is less of a wise manipulator and more of a clownish innocent galactic vagrant. This is of course a period that Doctor Who books, audios and comic strips side-steps most avidly, so I am impressed with the bravery of McIntee’s script in delving headfirst into a world of playing the spoons and pastel colors.

As the story (slowly) unfolds, the overly convoluted plot is impressive to say the least. The paranoia of Gallifrey has reached a fever pitch to the point that they are convinced manipulation of the lesser species is necessary to insure that time travel be regulated and controlled. In short, they are transplanting artificial intelligences into various alien races that could develop time travel capability in hopes of controlling them. Unfortunately, the Doctor sets off an experiment and becomes taken over by another intelligence. He is driven insane, but no one knows quite what to do with him. Mel cons a cabbie into helping her break into the facility and finds that she has other confederates that have escaped manipulation.

After finally getting the Doctor back in his ‘right mind,’ the pieces start to fall into place but not before numerous violent attempts to gain control of the situation by the facility staff. There is a lot of continuity and Doctor Who self-reference going on in this story, but it is also a very interesting concept, albeit told in a manner that is a bit too complicated for its own good. The idea of featuring a Doctor so soon after his regeneration seems a bit out of place as this confusion was, more or less, resolved in screen in Time and the Rani. Even so, it’s an unusual choice and that must be applauded.

The biggest star of Unregenerate! is of course Bonnie Langford, who is given so much to do that one unfamiliar with her TV appearance would think her to be one of the more celebrated companions. Another surprising star is Jennie Linden, who played the role of Barbara in the feature film version of Doctor Who and the Daleks.

Unregenerate! can be ordered directly from Big Finish and from other online retailers such as Mike’s Comics and BookDepository.

11 thoughts on “Doctor Who – Unregenerate!

  1. Your description of the Seventh Doctor as “a gibbering mess, spouting nonsense” is reminiscent of the way critics of Sylvester McCoy’ Doctor criticize his interpretation!
    Unregenerate appears to be slightly influenced by Castrovalva’s version of a Regeneration Trauma-stricken Fifth Doctor though, as you state, Time and the Rani had already clumsily dealt with a confused “newly born” Seventh Doctor. Nice to hear Bonnie performs well with good material, sadly the best you could say of her on-screen was that she had a nice butt.


  2. I like Bonnie Langford… hard to even say why… though my mother used to say I had a crush on Sandy Duncan as a young kid (I don’t remember)… and they share a few things in common, the biggest of which being girls who played Peter Pan… though surely that isn’t the draw to me.

    She is a fellow red-head, though… and another companion that I’m always surprised to be reminded that is basically a peer to me.. I think she is about 5 years older than I am, though my memory always tends to be skewed by people I only know from TV and they seem “frozen” at the age I saw them on TV… so I keep thinking she either should be younger OR much older since it was so long ago that I first watched these episodes.

    Anyway… I can’t help but think much of the problems with the character of Mel were the same larger ones plaguing the show in the later years. It just seemed like Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy got the bulk of the “we don’t know what this show is about so have at it” kind of direction and scripts… which is a shame given they and they companions acting with them seemed to be actors and actresses that had a love for the show beyond what the people running things had at that point in time.


  3. So, SJV, you’re a redhead? Me too! I knew there was a reason I liked you🙂. We shall overcome the Anti-Redheaded League (there’s a lot of them)! I can’t say I share the Peter Pan fixation😉 No, the principal boy concept is a weird one, “boys” usually played by attractive petite and very unboylike girls. Well, it isn’t so weird, I’d much rather watch girls; it was always disappointing when the twentysomething/thirtysomething woman playing principal boy didn’t kiss the woman playing an *actual* girl, oops that’s just me – perverted! Sorry, I’ve just turned innocent pantomime convention into a dubious male lesbian fantasy. Um. Sorry.
    To be briefly serious Bonnie Langford suffered because she was cast as a stunt by JN-T and he hadn’t bothered to come up with a proper character for her (not the first time he was guilty of that) while Saward apparently couldn’t be bothered. So she was stuck with a nothing character who screamed a lot and wasn’t even given a proper introduction. Shame.


    • Yeah… that kind of fits my perception of the era. People were cast without regard to talent (whether they had it like McCoy, or didn’t like Matthew Waterhouse)… then that was compounded by scripts and direction that didn’t even try to make use of the talent (or lack thereof)… so you get a mess… a sometimes brilliant, often sub-par, mess…

      On the Peter Pan front… I did have bedsheets of the Disney Peter Pan… I always found the look on the Disney Peter Pan’s face to be disturbing though… staring up in the darkness… so now I’m going to try and stop thinking about Pan… I did this to myself! I have no one to blame…🙂

      Lots of red hair in my family… particularly from my mother’s side… but other than that, yeah… not many of us around… so I try to stick with the ones I find!


  4. Hey, just imagine… Peter Pan outside your bedroom window… TONIGHT! And you should just *see* the expression on his face (think of the scene from Salem’s Lot). Chilling. Nyah-Ha-Ha! When I was a child I had a Scary Donkey in my room. Now THAT gave me the creeps. Also a white-faced thing called Nosey Bonk (google it – it was Freaky)from a children’s programme *terrified* me. Jinkies.


  5. Wait. The thing was called *Noseybonk*, it was in a show entitled Jigsaw. And what *other* terrifying thing was in Jigsaw? Sylvester McCoy!


  6. No, No, NOOOO! That is just *wrong*. It was Nightmare Fuel rather than Children’s Entertainment, and they thought it was *educational*! An Education in Fear, maybe. Having said that, I think it’s only fair that the children of today should have things like Mr Noseybonk to give them sweet dreams. Heh heh heh.


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