Max Warp was the second release of the second series of Big Finish Productions' Eighth Doctor Adventures audio stories. It featured a parody of Top Gear called Max Warp with Graeme Garden, James Fleet and Duncan James' characters Geoffrey Vantage, O'Reilley and Timbo each parodying the presenters from the post-2003 line-up of Top Gear.
Publisher's summary Edit
Welcome to Max Warp! Broadcasting live from the Sirius Inter-G Cruiser Show. Hosted by outspoken columnist and media personality Geoffrey Vantage, with spaceship-guru-extraordinaire O'Reilley and daredevil pilot Timbo "the Ferret".
When a test flight of the new Kith Sunstorm ends in disaster, the Sirius Exhibition Station is plunged into a web of murder and intrigue. Someone — or something — is trying to re-ignite a war between the Varlon Empire and the Kith Oligarchy.
As the fate of the galaxy hangs in the balance, only two investigators, the Doctor and Lucie, can hope to uncover the truth.
So strap yourself in, engage thrust, and prepare for... Max Warp!
Host Geoffrey Vantage opens the Max Warp programme, which is on location at the Inter-G Cruiser Show. Timbo “The Ferret” is slated to test-drive a new vehicle, the Kith Sunstorm, while presenter O’Reilley will examine quark drives, and celebrity guest Garfield Lemper tries out the Umbriel Slipstream. The Doctor and Lucie arrive in the midst of the Cruiser Show, where Lucie isn’t impressed, though the Doctor is; she takes him down a peg by comparing the TARDIS to a shed. She spots Geoffrey Vantage on a screen, just as Max Warp is beginning.
Timbo’s test drive goes well at first, but takes a turn for the worse when the flight computer suddenly locks out the pilot—and his orbital path is too sheer, sending him crashing into a moon. Lucie is shocked, but the Doctor is grim; he concludes it was no accident.
The Doctor meets with security head Judd Gilbride, and presents credentials which identify them as special investigators with platinum level clearance. Gilbride suspects this is no coincidence, as the President is making a visit; she says that she can find no record of them arriving. The Doctor talks his way past this objection, but is intrigued to learn they can track all entrances and exits; he tells her he is investigating a murder. Meanwhile, Vantage comforts the watching fans regarding Timbo’s death, but is less kind to the Kith Ambassador, whose world was responsible for the construction of the doomed Sunstorm. The Ambassador insists that the ship could not have malfunctioned, and must have been sabotaged. Their commentary makes the President certain they wish to start a way. A robot enters her room, claiming to have replaced her usual “spindroid”, or robotic adviser, which tells her that a majority of the public believe the Kith are responsible for Timbo’s death. It suggests immediate reprisal against Kith, but Gilbride arrives with the Doctor and Lucie. The Spindroid states that a murder investigation would improve the President’s approval rating. She advises the Doctor that she doesn’t care who he finds guilty, as long as he finds someone. She rehearses the recent history between the Varlon Empire and the Kith, which were both nearly wiped out in war, until a treaty resulted twenty years earlier. However the public would prefer war—and someone seems willing to provide it.
Lucie questions the Doctor about the President’s devotion to the Spindroid, but he only admits they can be compelling, but flighty. Gilbride leaves to double-check the security where the Sunstorm was docked. Lucie suspects Gilbride, due to her level of access. She also suspects the Spindroid. She then hears Vantage on the screen, and suspects that his use of the word “Ferret” may carry a computer virus of some sort. The Doctor doesn’t agree, but he does detect a background hiss in the broadcast which doesn’t respond to volume changes—and suddenly, Lucie passes out. The noise isn’t in the broadcast; they are being gassed. The Doctor passes out as well.
They awaken in the cockpit of a ship, an Epsilon Nova 90, which is on a collision course for the moon, just like Timbo—and there are no escape pods. Despite their efforts, they crash—but the lights come on, and a voice announces that they failed their driving test. It was a simulator, it seems, and they are still on the station. He suspects the gassing and the ruse were a clue of some sort, which leads him to the next step: interviewing suspects.
They interview the Kith Ambassador, who is offended at the suggestion of guilt, but placated when the Doctor says he has been instructed not to find him guilty. He insists that the Kith are devoted to peace, but have many Varlon enemies; he claims the Kith held back their ultimate weapons in the war, and paid a terrible price for peace, making them anxious to cooperate and move on. Gilbride reports to the Doctor that no one went near the Sunstorm, with tamper-proof scans backing her up. However, she still blames the Kith, and says that they have a battle fleet that the Varlons can’t match. Now the Doctor and Lucie decide to go undercover.
The Ambassador communicates with the Kith Oligarch on the homeworld. He expresses concern that, although the President intends to maintain peace, she could be replaced with a more popular and dangerous President. He asks to have the battle fleet put on conflict alert.
Vantage starts recording the next episode of Max Warp with a new ship, the Magellan Danube 4000. Lucie is a guest presenter on this episode, posing as “Lucie Nova”, but Vantage objects to the presence of a woman, and her act doesn’t convince him. However, he is obligated to accept her; the entire crew will be fired if they don’t. He grudgingly accepts, but tries to set down rule for her, becoming more sexist in the process, and openly blames the Kith for Timbo’s death. He then stops the recording again, insisting she doesn’t look dumb enough. Meanwhile, the President summons the Doctor for a report; when he can’t produce results yet, she says that the public is calling for her impeachment. He notes that her Spindroid isn’t there; it doesn’t come when she calls it, leading the Doctor to think another murder is about to occur.
Lucie goes to a bar with Vantage and O’Reilley after filming; O’Reilley secretly tells her not to be disturbed by Vantage, who actually may like her, given that he is usually much more patronising—he puts on for the cameras. They admit that Timbo was only with the programme for three months, and had been assigned much as Lucie was. They have no reason to be suspicious about his arrival or his death, other than Vantage’s views regarding the Kith. Vantage admits he was once a test pilot in the war, but not an actual combat pilot. However, he is still very bitter about the Kith. He excuses himself to return to his hotel room, warning Lucie that O’Reilley will try to chat her up—which O’Reilley promptly does. Elsewhere, the Doctor heads to the lower levels to check on the Spindroid; he finds Gilbride hiding there. Gilbride chastises him for invading a restricted area; when he reports that the droid is missing, she admits it has happened before. They find the remains of the Spindroid.
O’Reilley tries to get Lucie to join him in his hotel room, but they are interrupted in the hotel corridor by a gunshot from a neighbouring room. O’Reilley makes a hasty departure, leaving Lucie to check on the possible victim—the Ambassador, who took a near miss from a laser weapon. The Doctor arrives with Gilbride, who leaves to arrange a security lockdown. The Ambassador describes the attack, but doesn’t know who carried it out. Gilbride returns and says that the security cameras were all disconnected. He leaves Gilbride with the Ambassador, and takes Lucie to follow a hunch. Outside the room, Lucie says she believes it was the Spindroid—she heard it, she says—but the Doctor replies that he found it in pieces. She then assumes it was the Ambassador himself, faking an attempt on his life, but the Doctor waves this off. They go to check the Max Warp studio.
The Ambassador tells the President he is leaving, and orders that his ship be prepared. He then calls the Oligarch and requests that the battle fleet be dispatched at once.
Investigating the studio, Lucie and the Doctor are shot at by lasers. The Doctor sends Lucie out of the studio to safety.
The President urges the Ambassador to stay, and failing that, authorises an escort for him—but he says the fleet is en route. Gilbride confirms that the fleet is approaching, with thousands of ships. Lucie arrives and asks for help, but is turned down; she observes as the Ambassador’s ship vents its fuel, then goes up in an explosion. The President knows this will mean war; Lucie assumes the saboteur and the murderer are one and the same, and goes to get the Doctor. Instead she finds O’Reilley, who should not be in the studio; but before she can question him further, a battle-readiness alarm sounds. O’Reilley recognises it from the war. An intercom announces that everyone should report to defence positions. Lucie returns to the President’s office, but the Doctor arrives shortly after. He calls the Oligarch and asks them to power down their ship, and advises them that he has just transmitted a virus to their flight computers, which will cause them to fly into the nearest moon with any change. Reluctantly, the Oligarch powers down the fleet, and cuts the communication. The Doctor tells the President she now has a choice—kill the Kith and secure her approval permanently, or send them help. She is reluctant to act without the Spindroid, but when the Doctor mocks her for it, she decides to send help, despite the possible death of her career. Lucie asks how he knew about the virus, and he offers to gather the suspects.
He gathers the President, Gilbride, Vantage, and O’Reilley. He tells them that the real plan was the virus, intended to destroy the Kith fleet; but it needed a field test before deployment. That test came in the form of Timbo’s murder. However, Timbo wasn’t just an innocent victim; he was an undercover Kith agent, investigating a possible threat against the Kith. That threat was Vantage!
Vantage laughs it off, but it makes sense; he is a war veteran with access to electronic virus technology. Upon finding the truth about Timbo, he had Timbo killed on television, which then allowed him to set the rest of the plan in motion—by scaring the Ambassador into summoning the fleet and leaving. However, Timbo caught wind of it and faked his death; he hid in a simulator and, as a Kith, controlled the ship by remote, until it crashed. He then adopted a disguise that allowed him to get close to the President, as her new Spindroid. He summons the droid, and removes its head, revealing Timbo, who admits to gassing them and putting them in the simulator—with the crash simulation—as a clue. Timbo openly accuses Vantage of murdering the Ambassador; Vantage pulls a gun and warns everyone back. Vantage takes the President hostage and backs out of the room.
Vantage says he will escape in the Danube 4000 ship in the docking court, and orders her to give the order to destroy the Kith fleet. She refuses, and Vantage accuses her of weakness. A shot fires, and he drops his weapon, finding the Kith Ambassador—alive and well, having faked his own death—before him. Vantage surrenders, and the Ambassador calls the Doctor and Lucie into the room. The Doctor says that he saved the Ambassador by setting him up in a simulator, much as Timbo had done. Vantage rants about the Kith, and swears vengeance and genocide on them, until O’Reilley shows up and silences him, and orders Timbo to take him away.
O’Reilley becomes Max Warp’s chief presenter, and quickly changes the format to discussion of more mundane, mechanical issues. Lucie is sure that he’ll get the show cancelled, and the Doctor reluctantly agrees. Lucie worries about the President’s fate, but she is doing well, capitalising on the peace process; the Oligarch is obligated to join her in the efforts, and build toward peace. Further, in gratitude, the Kith are investing in the Varlon Empire, allowing the Varlon to abolish income taxes, which increases the President’s approval rating. The Doctor comments on the murder mystery, with the twist that for once, no one died. Lucie, for her part, has decided that she prefers the TARDIS to shiny spaceships—after all, it’s a nice shade of blue.
- The Doctor - Paul McGann
- Lucie Miller - Sheridan Smith
- Geoffrey Vantage - Graeme Garden
- O'Reilley - James Fleet
- Timbo - Duncan James
- The Kith - Nick Brimble
- President Varlon - Samantha Hughes
- Judd Gilbride - Katarina Olsson
Cultural references Edit
- There is mention of a "Lazlar Lyricon custom job". This was one of the spaceships in the "Milliways" car park in episode 5 of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
- The Doctor answers a question with the answer, "You might think that; I couldn't possibly comment." This brush-off was often used by Francis Urquhart, the Machiavellian protagonist of the TV serial House of Cards and its sequels.
- Lucie mentions Sherlock Holmes, Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot.
- "Morok" is used as a minor insult.
The TARDIS Edit
- Lucie jokingly defines "TARDIS" as "Time and Relative Dimensions in Shed".
- The Kith are a highly-evolved sponge-like myconid race. They sleep in the dark and phosphoresce whilst doing so.
- The Varlon Empire and Kith Oligarchy were at war with each other until twenty years before this story.
- This story features a musical performance by Barnaby Edwards and Nicholas Briggs of Big Finish.
- Elements in this story parody the show Top Gear, including the accident of Richard Hammond aka the Hamster. In this story, it is Timbo, a.k.a. the Ferret, who has an accident flying at high speeds, precipitating an interstellar incident. Geoffrey Vantage's sexist, racist, and anti-environmental opinions are an exaggerated version of Jeremy Clarkson's controversial remarks. O'Reilly's affinity for topics that bore other spaceship enthusiasts is similar to James May's style which his Top Gear presenters often tease him for.
- This audio drama was recorded on 13 August 2007 at The Moat Studios.
- The story was broadcast on BBC Radio 7 on 26 October 2008.
- The first part of the story was released for free onto The Big Finish Podcast feed in 2013.
- An advertisement for "Galactic Salvage and Insurance" can be heard. Galactic Salvage Insurance was first mentioned in TV: Nightmare of Eden.
- "Monoid 18" is paged. The Monoids first appeared in TV: The Ark.
- A Slithergee ice dance spectacular show is mentioned. (AUDIO: Flip-Flop)
- Official Max Warp page at bigfinish.com
- DisContinuity for Max Warp at Tetrapyriarbus - The DisContinuity Guide