Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Natural History of Fear


That was totally unexpected and exceptionally brilliant.

An attempt to do something really different with Doctor Who that takes advantage of Big Finish being an audio format. Something that sometimes gets forgotten. Games can be played with audio and played effectively.

The problem I have is how to review it without spoiling it because I think it pays coming to unspoilt.

Let's just say we are Light City, which is a City run efficiently. Where questions - to quote the Prisoner - are a burden for others; answers a prison for oneself and where everyone works happily for the company entertained by the ongoing adventures of a travelling hero called The Doctor and his friends Charley and K'rizz.

And with that we begin.

This has touches of 1984 about it not so much in Light City's ambiance. That feels more like 'The Happiness Patrol' or 'The Macra Terror' or indeed 'The Prisoner' with its jaunty DJ making annoucements on a semi-regular basis throughout. No where it has most in common with 1984 can be found in Orwell's line about 'he who controls the past, controls the future' (although not quite that, not quite), the love that one might feel for a dictator and thoughtcrimes.

But even that informs rather than overwhelms the story. This isn't one of those Doctor Who does 1984 type homages so beloved of Classic Who (or The Moff's Christmas Specials), this is something different and something better.

It's about individuality, about evolution and stagnation, its about love and memory, it is about truth and forgetting.

And you think you know what's happening and then there almost at the end they pull off one of the great twists. A majestic piece of what the fuckery that made me want to applaud. Expectations built up over three episodes are simple ripped apart in front of your face.

So you have to applaud the writer Jim Mortimore for this. He also did the sound engineering, which means that the whole audio experience is down to him. We hear what the writer wants us to hear and it repays careful listening.

Of course it wouldn't work if the cast weren't up to it, which they are. Paul McGann and India Fisher take the bulk of the material and do wonderful things with it. They seem to relish the script. Conrad Westmaas too is up to snuff, even if he gets less to do.

I am filled with superlatives, which can be quite uncomfortable. So I'm going to leave it there mainly because all I want to do is tell you that this is excellent, possibly the best Big Finish 8th Doctor story so far, and that you really should do yourself a favour and listen to it.

Seriously. Find yourself a quiet place to sit, put this on whatever your musical listening thing of choice is, perhaps through headphones to truly appreciate it and take two hours-ish to visit Light City. You'll thank me for it.

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