Unlike a lot of recent releases from Big Finish, the trio of stories featuring the sixth Doctor and Mel aren’t a linked trilogy, which makes for a pleasant change – but it does mean that each story has to be correspondingly a little stronger. Unfortunately, for all its many good points, Spaceport Fear isn’t one of the greater successes.
Director Barnaby Edwards has assembled a strong cast: Baker and Langford go head to head with Ronald Pickup, and Beth Chalmers has become an essential part of the Big Finish repertory company. The effects work well: the background sounds for the different part of the spaceport help to sell the illusion.
However, as is often the case when a story doesn’t work out, it’s the script that is the weak link. It might have been a mistake to admit in the CD extras that this was a late replacement, because it reinforces the impression you get while listening that this needed another draft and polish before it went into studio. Author Gallagher comments that he was concerned about resemblances to The Face of Evil, but the instant analogy that came to mind was Paradise Towers: an abandoned group of Earth people who have developed their own use of language. And of course that was a Mel story too, so if we believe in the “all one universe” theory, she might have commented about the resemblance when she and the seventh Doctor arrived at the Towers.
It also represents a bit of a backstep for the portrayal of the sixth Doctor, as Colin Baker himself intimates in the extras – indeed his final comment seems very pointed on the subject.
Verdict: A lot of good ideas that don’t quite gel. 6/10