Lets start of by saying the overall message is as you would expect: whalers bad, greenies good(ish). It’s a less than subtle subtext but thankfully it stays in the background and doesn’t dominate the story. There is a nice subplot with a fungal techno shaman which adds tension through the story and the shaman is a pretty interesting character with one of the best alien voices in a while. The whales are more of a backdrop, in some cases literally, to the story which makes sense as they are to big to directly get involved. The story follows what seems to be the very rigid template for these missing stories. The Doctor and Peri turn up; get separated; get back together; bicker a lot and finally save the day. Its a good formula but it would have been nice to see a bit more of a shake up.
I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this but I was pleasantly surprised. I’m one of the few who hated The Green Death and I tend to enjoy less stories that take on a preachy condescending tone. But while the whalers are a bit two dimensional they are a lot of fun. John Banks has a great time as the computer who’s personality gets switched multiple times; settling on a psychopathic game player who rattles forth l33t speak. Yes it’s silly but it raised several smiles and the injokes for gamers sit unobtrusively in the background. The Captain (John Benfield) seems to be predictable. An old salty sea dog who’s got one last chance to make it. A self made man who, after working his way up the ranks, isn’t going to get stripped of his captaincy without a fight but even he has a few twists and surprises.
There are a few misfires; I thought the quirky cultists didn’t work all that well and I’m mixed about the two bumbling crew members. It’s been done before in Warriors Gate and in that story they got the balance right. Here the dumbness is too often overplayed, trying for a cheap laugh. But they work well when interacting with Susan Browns Cheif Engineer, she plays off them well and her characters despair at being lumbered in such an idiot filled environment had me chuckling on several occasions.
It’s a fast moving tale. After last months bleak and oppressive drama its a refreshing change of pace. It’s comedy and not farce and the timing is fortunate as in many ways it gives a back story to the star of The Beast Below. Worth a listen though not a classic.