I had to take a long drive for work which lead to one specific thing: for the first time in months, I saw the CD case before I put the CDs into the player! Now, this wasn’t a big deal because I had absolutely no memory of the story but since I was seeing the cover, I thought I’d see what nice surprise the inside casing had for me. A few of them have really offered an added bonus to each release, so what the heck, I’ll see what this one has… Oh. It’s a blinding light. Just… light. Well, ok then… let’s just listen and see what happens in Primeval. (For the record, that same blinding light on the cover, takes up the whole insert of the CD, but it’s in black and white now, to really illustrate how bright it is… I think!)
The story opens with Nyssa unconscious and possibly dying and the Doctor looking for help. Ironic, really. Had it not been for the careful placement in my car CD player, I would have wondered if perhaps I was starting on CD 2 (episode 3). The Doctor has taken Nyssa to Traken in the Primeval era where superstition and god worship are still en vogue. This is before Traken would have a keeper for the “Sauce”. (I know, they’re saying “Source” but when audio is all you have, you pick up on little things. Suddenly I think Traken is where McDonald’s gets its secret Sauce!) When the Doctor is unable to get help because the primatives of Traken believe that evil is soemthing you can pass on like a disease, he is forced to negotiate with Traken’s version of the Devil. The audience soon discovers that this devil is actually the cause of Nyssa’s sickness. He will help the Doctor but it involves a trick to get to the Source.
So, right off the bat, I think Sutton and Davison are just a great pairing. I’m probably biased by the fact that I met Sutton and she’s utterly delightful, but they just work so well together. The cliffhangers in this story are a mix, but it’s the first one where the Doctor looks upon the face of Kwundaar that actually impressed me so much; this is a powerful creature. The Doctor’s confidence is misplaced and he screams in terror. It’s a shocking moment. Stephen Greif is the voice of Kwundaar and while he’s very good, the effect used for his bizarre voice destroys episode two’s cliffhanger totally. I even put it on the computer when doing this write-up to see if I could figure out what he says, but it’s something like “… and then, equarry!” What? I’ll rewind. Nope. “We’ll carry it?” Nope… no idea. I have no idea why episode 2 ended as a tense moment, becuase I can’t make out what was being said. I don’t normally have an issue with the voices. I mean, context clues can help, but this one just left me clueless. And that’s a shame. I find episode 2 cliffhangers are usually the strongest.
There’s also a bit where the Doctor and Nyssa, now somewhat recovered after Kwundaar’s duplicitious help, have to go for a swim to access the Source. The Doctor takes his clothes in a bag with him while Nyssa (remember, she was sick) has to walk around in her wet swim suit. When the Doctor is called out on it, he says “What did you think was in the bag? Sorry, no room for yours [clothes]!” At this, I had to laugh! Imagine if this were on television? Why would he think to take his and not hers, especially since she was the one who was sick before? Ah, I know, it must be the healing properties of walking around wet and nearly naked! Duh! How forgetful of me.
When everything the Doctor does seems to be failing, the episode really had me wondering if I had forgotten about a second part to this story, but it is resolved in the end and, at that, wonderfully. It’s one of those great victories when the Doctor turns the tables, but the defeat of Kwundaar is a bit sudden. One second the Doctor is offering Kwundaar the chance to leave, and then Kwundaar is dead! I thought I’d fallen asleep but I was driving and was not wrapped around a pole, so I think I was awake the whole time. The Doctor introduces the planet to the idea of a Keeper of the Source (sauce?) and Traken of the future is ensured. (Well, until the Master bungles his plans and wipes out that part of the universe!)
Primeval is a bit like Keeper of Traken – it deals with the battle between superstition and science. The whole allegory of the light of the source vs the devil that can’t go into the light is even more blatant than Keeper but perhaps it offers more action. It’s also of note that the Trakenites know the Source is a machine, even if a perfect one, but they do not seem to worship it. Instead they worship a god that isn’t the Source. I found that weird and a bit counterintuitive for an episode that is so heavily alligorical otherwise. Still, this would have made a delightful visual episode to accompany Keeper because it would have given us some theological allegory, the history of the Source – including the first Keeper, Nyssa in a bathing suit, and a Trakenite learning the Charleston. (Yes, that happens!) What more could we have wanted? Well, maybe a McDonald’s sandwich! ML