If I’m being honest, I am upset. I think what I liked about the original range of Doctor Who releases from Big Finish is that if you disliked a Doctor/companion combo, you only had one story to sit through before moving on to another coupling. The Creed of the Kromon gives us another 8th Doctor/Charley adventure in the Divergent universe. Having escaped the strange white void, they are now in another zone. It’s shorthand for “the TARDIS took them somewhere new”, but since the TARDIS is missing, the pair travel through zones much like those of The War Games. That’s a minor contrivance however and I would happily turn a blind eye to it, but there’s so much that made this story difficult, that I spent most of my time rolling my eyes which is dangerous while driving.
As a start, I find Charley so annoying. She freaks out early in this story and I just really have come to dislike the character. When she calls the Doctor, she has that panicky double-call that basically doesn’t give a person a chance to react! “DoctorDoctor??” I mean, there’s no space when she blurts that out! I also had a hard time understanding why Charley opts to help C’rizz drink by using her hands to scoop water; what was wrong with his hands? There’s another of those heavily descriptive scenes that would be the paragraph of exposition in a book, between dialogue, but it comes off clunkily in spoken form.
But I would genuinely be willing to ignore all of that too except we had just come off such an unusual story with the last one, I was hoping to maintain the alienness. Instead we are given a thinly veiled dig against bureaucracy and corporate structure that I felt like I was watching Voyager. Here we are in a different universe and look, the Ferengi were here!! Come on now! Give us what you promised. Having the Doctor hack a computer in an unknown universe is a tough leap for me. I mean, try to go from Windows to Mac and you’ll struggle; trust me, I know. How does the Doctor know how to use a computer in another universe? And since when is the Doctor “not an engineer” who isn’t sure he knows how to build a TARDIS? If this were Jon Pertwee, he’d have been the engineer who built every TARDIS!
The annoyances continue… Part 4 was clearly underwritten so in order to pad it out 2 days go by while the Doctor and C’rizz have this debate over and over: C’rizz: “Charley must die.” Doctor: “I’m not ready to give up on her.” The flip to Charley: “Drink this and you will become one of us.” “No, it’s gross!” Flip back, “Charley must die, like I killed my girlfriend.” “I’m not ready to kill her.” Back: “You must drink this!” “No, it’s still gross…” And this strange flip-flop between two discussions goes on for so much of the last episode that I could not wait for it to end. Worst of all, this isn’t even my biggest pet peeve!
Roger and I often discuss that science can be put on hold if you give us a good story, but I think this is one of Big Finish’s big failures. A major conceit to this episode is that the people of this universe don’t know the word “time.” Now, I can live with that for the sake of a good story, because I’m clearly turning a deaf ear to the fact that they speak English at all. But that means that the story has to play very carefully with this idea. All the bureaucracy and red tape mean the Doctor and his enemies may not actually be speaking the same language, but they understand each other’s concepts enough through whatever method of translation you wish (TARDIS telepathic circuits, etc). But the concept of time doesn’t need to know the word when we get lines like “May I order an evening meal?” or that an invitation was sent for the leaders to come visit in two days. Or when C’rizz asks the Doctor how long they’ve waited and specifically mentions time spans. (Days, minutes, hours… I can’t recall, I was so annoyed.) The thing is, you don’t have to say the word “time” to comprehend what it is. And the problem is that’s a major plot point. These beings want to explore space, but have no concept of time. But um… yeah… they do!! They just don’t know the word! Which is moronic since I guarantee they didn’t know a dozen other words (like: TARDIS) but comprehended that it was a space ship just from a few words that Doctor said. So how was “time” so complex??
It’s frankly not even a great introduction for C’rizz, who needs a voice at the end to explain things to the Doctor; namely that he’s a monk and it was the Doctor’s influence that broke him. No, no and by the way, no!! And I am utterly sick of the name dropping – in this case Charles Darwin! I mean, beyond being juvenile, it effectively ruins future stories where the writer wants to have them meet. Oh, whoops, can’t do the Napoleon story now because you know, the 3rd Doctor talked to Boney once…
I love Doctor Who and I adore Big Finish. Bad-mouthing anything to do with the show hurts me a bit and bad-mouthing Big Finish is unfair because they really do put out top quality products more often than not. But it would be untruthful to say they succeed all the time. Throw in those jibes about bureaucracy all you want; give us a good allegory about the wrongs of it… I can live with that. But don’t have a central conceit of the story get ignored due to lazy writing. It’s not fair to the listener and a discredit to the company name. I plan to start the next story tomorrow but I’ll be honest, I’m not looking forward to it. Maybe a story with these three together, with introductions out of the way, will be easier to stomach. Time will tell… oh, wait, I have no idea what that means… hopefully something that resembles the passing of hours and minutes will tell, though I have no idea what to call it. ML