[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]The Sound of Doctor Who #01
Audio Drama: The Apocalypse Element
- The Doctor — Colin Baker
- Evelyn Smythe — Maggie Stables
- Romana — Lalla Ward
- Commander Vorna — Andrea Newland
- Coordinator Vansell — Anthony Keetch
- The President — Michael Wade
- Monitor Trinkett — Karen Henson
- Assistant Monitor Ensac — James Campbell
- Vrint — Andrew Fettes
- Captain Reldath — Andrew Fettes
- Monan Host — Toby Longworth
- Dalek Voices — Alistair Lock and Nicholas Briggs
Director: Nicholas Briggs
Writer: Stephen Cole
Producers: Jason Haigh-Ellery and Gary Russell
Publisher: Big Finish
Welcome to the first of a new review series. Tis I, Seraph aka Frankie Rodriguez, who decided that I needed Broken Infinite to live up to its motto: Break the Cycle again. And this seems to help do it. This is the first audio drama review that I am doing. Why? Because I’m a so deep into Whovian fandom now that it is pretty bad. It is now up there for me with Comics, Anime & Toku. Plus, as a Whovian, this gave fans more tales of the Doctor’s from the classic series and expanding on its wonderful universe … multiverse … oh you get the point. So, these reviews are going to be different. Plus, I am a fan of the audio drama genre which was apparent in the now defunct Morphin Bracers … the “skits” basically grew a life of its own. Sure it was audio drama fanfiction …. but I enjoyed it. Considering I wrote, directed and had roles within the drama .. that would be a thing.
Back to Doctor Who, Big Finish was given license by the BBC to make audio dramas during the era of when there was no new Doctor Who in 1999. The Big Finish audio dramas was the only place, till 2005, to get new Doctor Who stories. They started off with a monthly range featuring the 5th, 6th, 7th … and later 8th doctors. Each story in this “Monthly Range” featured a Doctor and, often times, at least one companion on an adventure. The parts for the story range from 4 to 6 till later in Big Finish’s run.
From there, Big Finish has expanded the Doctor Who multiverse exponentially. All the characters, with a few exceptions, are played by actors and actresses that played them on the show. To many fans and, thanks to the Doctor Who “Night of the Doctor” minisode, these stories are cannon. I mean, it is argued that they are and that they aren’t. In my mind, I will take these stories as cannon for several reasons: 1 – the aforementioned “Night of the Doctor”minisode where the 8th doctor names the majority of his Big Finish companions, 2 – as stated earlier, these roles, particularly the Doctors, are all played by the same actors who played them; 3 – it builds off a lot of the classic episodes, novels and comics that Doctor who had; and 4 – cause I can decide their canon.
With that out of the way, on to the review:
The Apocalypse Element is a 6th Doctor story that … hold on, hold on. I know there is a lot of hate for the 6th Doctor. But watching some of his classic stories and then listening to his Big Finish work … Colin Baker is definitely NOT at fault. He is an amazing doctor given the right stories and the right characters to play with. Now that that tyraid is done …. the Apocalypse Element is a 6th Doctor story that has some pretty big implications. It is the 2nd part of what Big Finish call “The Dalek Empire” arc, which has 4 parts but each story is stand alone.
In this story, we get to see the Daleks in some of their most destructive and scheming. We get to understand why the Eye of Harmony in the 96 Doctor Who movie had to be opened by a human. And, most importantly, we get the first Big Finish appearance of Romana. Yet, Romana who had last been seen staying in E-Space back in the classic episode “Warriors Gate.”
The main plot has that the President of Gallierfy was attending conference with other time traveling aliens. One group, the Mont Host, have a new time traveling ship that is actually more advanced than the Gallifreian TARDIS. This all leads to trouble as the Dalek hatch a vicious plot that ends up holding the fates of three planets … and later the universe in peril. As the conference beings, the 6th Doctor and his companion, the first original Big Finish companion Evelyn Smythe, join the festivities. Yet, mysteries start piling up. What happened to Romana, who was last seen as President of Gallifrey but has been missing for over 2 decades? What is going on with the new element that the Daleks are having beings slave over to synthesize? And what price does the planet Archetryx have to pay as the Dalek’s come aknockin’?
This story has all the makings of a great Doctor Who episode with a bit extra. Cole’s script is compelling, tightly woven and full of drama & mystery that keep your attention from the first couple minutes to the very last second of this drama. I applaud Cole for using existing Who history well and weave it in clever ways. He capture the voices of the Doctor, Romana and the Daleks perfectly … allowing them all to shine. Plus, the newer characters seemed to just fit in well, sounding like they have always been there. The Doctor gets to run through many emotions in this story, but each of them feel perfectly in line with the situation and with the doctor. The key elements of the story really tie together well, leaving nothing for chance. And the pacing of the over all story was near perfection; making it a nail biter towards that last past.
The actors and actresses really sounded perfect, clear and really made a great effort to weave the atmosphere of alien worlds. The sound production was top-notch, as we go through multiple planets that aren’t Earth but still get sound design that allows each planet its own atmosphere. Plus, the battles in this sound brutal and really help the imagination explode.
Colin Baker’s 6th Doctor was good, but here, he’s exceptional. One of the best encounters featuring the Doctor, Baker does an amazing job showing the range of the Doctor’s emotions: from his weariness of Gallifreian politics, to his anger at the Daleks, to his concern for Romana and Evelyn … Baker gives such care and precision in this drama that it just oozes with charisma and confidence. Maggie Staples’ Evelyn is a treasure. While she wasn’t as featured here as she was in her previous entry story (which I will get to eventually), she is extremely important throughout the course of the story. Evelyn keeps the 6th Doctor from being too brash in his anger or overconfidence while definitely giving a great human experience on being on both Archetryx & Gallifrey. I also loved that her character was scared of the Daleks … but not truly horrified of them till the final act. The depth they gave her character shined through Staples performance here. Ward’s Romana is a little older, wiser yet still a complete joy. We see her stronger now … stronger than we’ve ever seen her in classic Who and it is a triumph to behold. To hear anyway. Anyone who enjoys Romana will love her in this story. If you didn’t know or like Romana, I almost guarantee that this story will change your mind. She is cunning. She is sly. She is determined. She proves herself one of the strongest women in Who History with this story and Ward makes sure to let every last word or sound she makes reflect that.
Briggs is great as a Dalek as always. I say as always cause Briggs has played a Dalek a LOT, both in Big Finish and in current NuWho episodes. So, yeah. Briggs is an amazing Dalek. He always is. The rest of the cast were extremely good. I particularly liked the performances Henson’s Trinkett, who I wished became a companion after this story, and Wade’s President, who really captured the portrait of a somewhat Xenophobic yet struggling authoritative figure. The chemistry of this cast really gels well to bring out the best and most frightening moments of “The Apocalypse Element” together.
Random Who Fact:
Oddly enough, as the Doctor Who returned to tv, it was the 9th Doctor after the Time War. To some, this very story is considered one of its opening skirmishes. And considering the events and destruction that happens within this story, it is very easy to know why.
The Final Verdict:
I only been listening to Big Finish for a few months, but this story alone really got me hooked. It is the first drama that I immediately wanted to re-listen to. The sound direction is superb. The acting is top notch. The writing is really amazing. And the story brings familiar Doctor Who elements together to spark one of the best Doctor Who stories in any medium. If you aren’t into audio drama, its cool. This one will convert you.
If you want it, you can get it online for $2.99 on the Big Finish site.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_video link=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I4GRHVvkhjs”][/vc_column][/vc_row]