I will never claim that Big Finish only puts out good stories, because we will invariably like some more than others; it’s just how life works. However, I will always applaud their ability to do something clever. This isn’t the best they have to offer, but it surely is one of the most intriguing.
Back in my review of Nekromanteia, I made the comment that we’d never have a good conversation about flip-flops. And while I stand behind that belief, we can get into a good conversation about the Big Finish story Flip-Flop! Episode 46 comes in a special box. The box is colored black and white. The CDs inside are in two smaller cases, not like all the others. They are not labeled Disc one and Disc two. One is called White Disc, the other Black Disc. Aesthetically, I am reminded of the video game Black and White, but no other similarities exist between the two. So the obvious problem here is: which CD do I listen to first? In the event you’re not sure, remember: Big Finish is bold and experimental.
Whether you love the story or not really doesn’t matter. You can’t listen to it and not be impressed by the creativity that went into it. Mel and the Doctor arrive on the planet Puxatornee to find Leptonite Crystals to help combat an issue with Quarks elsewhere. Upon arrival, they are already being hunted for something they haven’t done yet. This is where the story gets clever because they actually already have, and Mel realizes it right away. Still, you’re not sure; you’re wondering if maybe you put the wrong disc on, but you haven’t. The Doctor and Mel are stuck in a time loop and while they get out, their past selves are arriving. As they make it through the story, they leave and their past selves arrive… effectively, you could go on listening to this story, flipping or flopping between the White CD and the Black forever.
I could try to explain how both discs are different, but it wouldn’t be worth it. Instead, think of it this way: you are unhappy with your current existence so you go back in time to change it. You come back only to realize things are worse this way, so you go back in time to change the change, but now can’t because you are part of events so you try to undo the change to the change, but… yeah. You can see why I’m not going to talk about the differences; it would take a book. (Or you could listen to it yourselves!) Even the CD insert says there’s no right way to listen to these. But I’ll give Big Finish still one more standing ovation: when the first disc ended, there was a “coming soon from Big Finish” announcement. Ah, well, now I knew I listened to the “wrong one” first. Except, when I finished the second one, they had a “coming soon from Big Finish” announcement. Ah well now, I knew I had listened… wait! That was so damned clever. I almost felt like I was in a time loop!
There are some really great lines, but that’s not what stands out about this episode. That doesn’t mean I won’t share them! I loved the Slithergee’s line: “Being a minority has nothing to do with how many of us there are!” I also enjoyed hearing Mel argue with the Doctor over his “when I say ‘run'” catchphrase only for him to say “come on” instead. Her sudden understanding of philosophical debate was pretty stellar too, and she comes in with one more great one before the end. She’s told about the cell they are locked in and that it can only be unlocked from the outside, which she feels makes perfect sense, as it is a cell, after all. And the Doctor gets a particularly clever comment in about “radiation gloves” that made me nostalgic for The Daleks.
Now you may think this is ironic, but I listened to this at the beginning of February. In the States, Punxsutawney Phil is our seer of future weather on Groundhog Day. He lets us know if we have 6 more weeks of winter coming and more often than not, I want to strangle him, since I hate the cold weather. Anyway, while the spelling was different, I had no doubt that this was a built-in reference to the Bill Murray classic, Groundhog Day wherein Bill Murray is caught in a time loop. Very clever, but not surprising considering Big Finish is run by some of the most clever storytellers I’ve ever heard of.
I will never claim that Big Finish only puts out good stories, because we will invariably like some more than others; it’s just how life works. However, I will always applaud their ability to do something clever. This isn’t the best they have to offer, but it surely is one of the most intriguing. ML