Well, I finally arrived at the last of the original CD’s that I had bought from the Big Finish line of Doctor Who stories. Everything I have from here on out is digital. I had hoped to wrap the year with these and it looks like nearly I pulled it off. It’s been a good run, but I will be happy to not have to carry CDs to my car every week. Hey, sometimes it’s the little things, right?? But onto the story…
I know you’re all probably tired of my petty complaints, but some things just eat at me. I have a good story that actually questions the nature of evil, which is a really good concept, but my first thought is that it needed another read-through. What makes it more painful is that I listened to this whole adventure in a day. Now, you might think that’s not hard to do, but I’ll tell you, I didn’t drive anywhere special today. My normal drive to work is 35 minutes, and my return is about 40. So the typical adventure is 2 hours long, with four 30-minute parts. I finished parts one and two before I got to work. So that means this story is just over one hour long, maybe 75-ish minutes. While you might be thinking I’m complaining because it’s a cheat, that’s not my complaint at all. I don’t mind when some of them are a little shorter, but when you have a shorter episode, you have to be really precise in your writing.
In part one, the Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver to… I’m not 100% sure what he does actually; knocks over a tree? Disables a turret? Whatever it is, C’rizz says not to do it because in effect it’s a crazy idea, but the Doctor does it and says he has an excellent ear for tone – it’s a trick he picked up in Memphis. (Thankfully, he didn’t say Elvis taught him, at least. Small mercy!) But the thing is, by part two, the Doctor asks C’rizz to listen for a girl because “you have better hearing than I do.” Oh yeah? I mean, tone and hearing might not be exactly the same thing, but the Doctor could hear the tone he needed to get out of trouble, but he can’t hear a little girl wandering about the forest? Again, this all happens within the first 30 minutes.
On the other hand, the story does take the Doctor through the history of a planet and the idea is very fascinating. I remember playing Star Flight 2 and the idea of going back in time some millions of years to a period before the cloud nebula existed was tantalizing. In effect, that’s what the Doctor does here. He finds a little girl on a stone who seems to have been there for millions of years and goes back to see when she first arrived. He’s going back to the start of the story. I know it’s just a story-telling convention, but I loved it. I also love when the Doctor is smarter than his companions; he is meant to be the star of the show after all, but you’d be surprised how often the recent TV showrunners forget that. So when C’rizz disobeys the Doctor, the Doctor is already aware of it. And he’s very relaxed about it, which ends up making him seem more in control of the situation! So the end result is that we have a very strong characterization for the Doctor, which is what we want!
Where characterization fails is with Mr. Flood. The problem with the resident Hannibal Lector character is that he’s suddenly introduced in the last few seconds of episode 2 as the big villain of the piece, and it’s that same little girl who can stop him, but all of that feels forced because he was not a threat before. The story seemed to be about the origin of evil and instead becomes a genus loci versus a mutant. They are meant to be a counterpoint to one another, but it feels fake. They are hardly equal-but-opposite!
On the plus side, Charley didn’t bother me much this episode while C’rizz actually impressed me. He threatened the big villain because he too is a killer and for a moment you think he might be the more lethal character. The Doctor continues to have faith in his new companion which is a nice touch as well. Also a few other nice touches are the Easter eggs: the origin of the Daleks and the Cybermen are both mentioned, and jelly babies make an appearance, making Galayana (the resident Genus loci) friendly towards the Doctor.
Overall, it’s not a bad story. In fact, the phrase “scaredy cat” actually became more than a bit creepy in this story, but it’s not my favorite of the range. I did actually like the shorter format, believe it or not, but I do wish they wouldn’t make silly mistakes like the one we heard here.
When we return to these, they will be the digital downloads. These days you can’t buy the original CDs any more; they are only available as digital downloads. Regardless of how I feel about a given story, I don’t regret for a second owning these. Big Finish is still a quality company releasing dynamite audio, on CD and as digital downloads. Like the Divergent universe, it’s just another method for us to enjoy the Doctor. ML