REVIEW: Doctor Who – The Fires of Vulcan (2001)

Note: I’ve skipped the last audio play as I need to re-listen to it.


Big Finish Audio “Quick Review”

Synopsis: “Two thousand years ago, a volcanic eruption wiped the Roman city of Pompeii from the face of the Earth. It also buried the Doctor’s TARDIS…Arriving in Pompeii one day before the disaster, the Doctor and Mel find themselves separated from their ship and entangled in local politics. As time runs out, they fight to escape from the shadow of Mount Vesuvius. But how can they succeed when history itself is working against them?”

You know, I haven’t really seen too many episodes of Doctor Who with Mel, but I always hear that the character is annoying and basically terrible.  Being an American, I don’t have all of the pre-loaded bias against Bonnie Langford, due to her status as a child star.  This fact, I have noticed, has made her get picked at a bit on websites and such.  In a similar case, I was unfamiliar with Billie Piper’s music career prior to her signing on with the show, and thus had no problems with the character Rose Tyler.  I think some people get so engrossed with the “pre-Who” careers of some folks, that it harms their enjoyment of the show.  Anyway, back to Mel; Mel isn’t really that bad at all!  Even in the campy Delta and The Bannermen, she seemed like a decent enough character despite the screaming and running around she seemed to do.  But wait – isn’t this a review of a Doctor Who audio book, and not a career retrospective of  Bonnie Langford as Mel?  Yes it is, and the above clarification is necessary, as I felt that this would be one of the worst audios due to the characters inclusion, based solely on other people’s opinions online.  Guess what?  I loved it!

The story opens with a strange discovery in a collapsed archaeological site in Italy.  It seems that an Earthquake has opened the ground near the site of the former city of Pompeii, revealing a blue police box in the rubble.  We jump to The Doctor and Mel arriving at the same site in 79 A.D., one day before the “big day” at Mt. Vesuvius.  Mel is worried that the Doctor seems pre-occupied and won’t let them run out and do their normal explorations on the amazing scene they are witnessing.  The truth is, the Doctor knows about the Tardis being found there, and he’s worried that today is the day that he finds out why.

It’s no secret that I love historical episodes, and this one did not let me down.  A similar episode of the show during the David Tennant run as the tenth incarnation of the Doctor relied way too much on aliens and other trappings of the “modern historical” in Doctor Who, but this is straight historical.  There are no aliens and no monsters just a story of one man’s quest to divert what he believes to be the inevitable – his death.  Sylvester McCoy and Bonnie Langford do a great job in the roles of The Doctor and Mel, and show a great chemistry together.  While not as popular and dramatic as McCoy and Sophie Aldred were as a team, this pairing gets the job done, and harkens back to an older era in the show.

The Fires of Vulcan is probably one of the better Big Finish audio plays I’ve heard so far, despite all the fan hate for me.  I for one, hope she has done more of these!


My rating 4.5 out of 5


One comment

  1. One of the really interesting things about Big Finish is the way it has rehabilitated certain actors. In particular, Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant and especially Bonnie Langford.

    Even those who hate Mel in the t.v. series admit that Bonnie gives some great performances for Big Finish.

    On the other hand, she does come across in Big Finish as very different to how she came across in the television series in most of the audios I have heard her in.

    I am quite a big fan of season 24, so naturally I think it’s wonderful that Big Finish offered so many dramas with the rather unpopular team of the Seventh Doctor and Mel.


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