The Death Match is now under new management, with a mysterious new and unbeaten champion, and privacy assured to its rich patrons as they watch their champions fight to the death from the comfort of the orbiting Quarry Station. Prizes are offered for every kill in a purpose built environment bristling with deadly traps and hidden dangers. There is only one rule in the Death Match: kill or be killed!
Tom Baker was my Doctor. Sure, I was young, but some of my earliest memories come from City of Death and Destiny of the Daleks, and the phrase ‘would you like a Jelly Baby?’ is seared into my frontal lobe. And yet despite this I’ve never managed to get my hands on the 4th Doctor range to review. So it was with some giddy glee that I approached this tale – especially as it also stars John Leeson and Louise Jameson, two of that era’s greatest companions.
It’s a fun story, and well structured. The Death Match set up is a solid core, and only a few twists are hung off it – but then, it’s such a perfect environment for a companion like Leela that the plot doesn’t want to be too complex. Having the Master, played by the excellent Geoffrey Beevers, on board too only adds an extra level of danger and mystery to the titular location.
This is something of a sequel to the previous story, but Death Match expands plot lines rather than provides the second half of a more joined two parter. And there is also a new person in the TARDIS mix, in the shape of brash northern ex rocket man Marshall (played by Damian Lynch). There are some briefly met background victims for the contest, but the arena is basically dominated by the vicious Vargrave who’s brutality in the game is matched only by the calculated plotting of his patron Kastrella outside of it.
The Death Match idea is fun, and while it would benefit from being a bit more visual, it’s captured well by excellent use of sound and well written fight scenes. But for me the most enjoyable bits were simply listening to Tom Baker, John Leeson and Louise Jameson just click back into characters that are a joy to hear. The 4th Doctor is unique, different to the other Doctors and with a personality that only the larger than life Tom Baker can pull off. Leela gets a chance to explore the more savage side of her character (which is kept in check by the moral code the Doctor has slowly instilled in her)… amongst others (and you’ll need to buy the audio to see what I mean by that!). And K9 does a great job of being helpful and far too literal.
While some of my enjoyment may come from my love of an era it’s not entirely due to that. This is a good story with a fine cast. There are more complex tales out there but sometimes something simple, brutal, fast paced and fun is what you want and this delivers in spades.
Written By: Matt Fitton
Directed By: Nicholas Briggs
Tom Baker (The Doctor), Louise Jameson (Leela), John Leeson (K9), Geoffrey Beevers (The Master), Susan Brown (Kastrella), Andy Secombe (Vargrave)
Producer David Richardson
Script Editor John Dorney
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs