DWST6.05 – This Sporting Life


This Sporting Life is the fifth story from Big Finish‘s sixth series of Doctor Who: Short Trips, this time featuring the First Doctor, Steven Taylor, and Dodo.  The title is a play on the 1963 Richard Harris film This Sporting Life which featured, among others, William Hartnell.

This Sporting Life sees the Doctor and his companions land in London of 1966, in a cordoned off area that they soon discover is the result of the theft of the World Cup.

After explaining to Steven what the Jules Rimet Trophy really is, and Steven expressing his complete disinterest in the subject of football (“it’s only a game”), Dodo encourages the others to investigate and recover the famous cup.

The Doctor has detected an odd radiation and so is intrigued to go along with Dodo’s eagerness, and Steven tags along trying to equate a run-down docklands area of London with the city’s great reputation.

On being handed the base of the cup with a ransom demand for £15,000, their investigation of the radiation trail leads them to a goldsmith who denies all knowledge of the incident.

The Doctor has Steven keep an discrete eye on the goldsmith whilst he and Dodo return to the TARDIS for better radiation detection equipment.  Steven follows the man to a dark and shadowy warehouse at the edge of the Thames, whereupon he’s accosted and saved when the Doctor arrives.

They discover that the goldsmith has been helping a stranded alien family that’s trying to fix an electromagnetic shield on their spacecraft prior to reaching their destination planet.  For this they need gold, and hence the theft.  There isn’t enough gold in the trophy, however, hence the ransom so that the goldsmith could buy more.

The Doctor agrees to help the family and works out a way of setting history back on its way by the utilisation of a string of sausages.

This short, 37-minutes or so, story is read by Peter Purves (the original Steven Taylor), and would have been so much better had it been written in First Person.  Purves does a creditable job of doing the voices for the First Doctor, Dodo, the goldsmith, the alien creature, and others.  His First Doctor can get a bit grating at times, but you always know who’s doing the talking.  However, having the voice of Steven Taylor referring to Steven Taylor in the third person is quite distracting.

In significant ways, This Sporting Life is a historical story with an educational bent.  I’m sure most people are aware, if not in-depth then certainly in vague tones, of the theft of the Jules Rimet Trophy in 1966, and so the historical context is quite comforting.  I also found it rather reassuring that Steven shares my own lack of enthusiasm for the sport.

A comfortable story that won’t rock any boats, with some nice twee moments.  The only thing that hangs over the production is the wish that the late William Hartnell could have been here to take part in the story himself.