Wednesday, 17 September 2014
Bloodtide [Sixth Doctor + Evelyn Smythe]
Bloodtide is set on the Galapagos Islands. The Doctor has bought Evelyn along to meet Charles Darwin (Miles Richardson) whilst he is visiting aboard The Beagle. Of course whilst that would be nice it would probably make for a less than exciting Doctor Who story. And what do we see here? Ah, Silurians. Look out, look out there's a Lizardman about.
It's a small group, led by maverick Silurian scientist Tulok (Daniel Hogarth). Tulok, as we discover at the beginning of this story, is a 'man' with ideas that his fellow Silurians disapprove of. He's on trial when we first meet him. Sentenced to be exiled to the dying surface of the Earth along with his 'blasphemous' creations.
Of course dodgy scientists in Doctor Who - human, Kaled or Silurian - are never that easy to get rid of.
The Doctor stumbles upon all of this via Greta (Jane Goddard) whose brother has been sentenced to death by Governor Lawson (Julian Harries). Governor Lawson is an unpleasant bugger and may or may not be up to no good. He's certainly a petty and vindictive little man.
One thing leads to another. The Doctor gets captured, escapes and then has to escape a fate worse than pantomime horses as The Beagle comes under attack by the dreaded Myrka. I'll say this for the Myrka. It is the perfect monster for audio. Meanwhile Evelyn and Charles Darwin go looking for the Doctor and get captured. The Doctor goes to look for Evelyn and Charles Darwin with Captain Fitzroy (George Telfer) and gets captured. Again.
There's a lot of time in cells here. A lot of time being overheard by various people. The Silurians get to push people around using their Third Eye, which actually functions as a psychic weapon this time as opposed to a nonsensical conversational light. Obviously. Because a conversational light would be idiotic on audio. So I'm not sure why I made such a big deal out of this.
I like the Silurians. Always have. They're one of those Doctor Who monsters that actually feel like a proper culture, although 'New' Doctor Who has taken away some of there uniqueness by changing their appearance to something more streamlined. Even if it has given us Madam Vastra. Big Finish have stuck with the odd electronic voices too that came with the original Silurian story back in the Third Doctor's era. It works really well to make them seem more disconcerting.
And one of things that makes the Silurians great is the fact that they make humans instinctively uncomfortable as a result of a long forgotten race memory. It drives some people mad. Or not.
This story gives a couple of twists to their story here though. One about their diet. One about why they never woke up from their cryogenic sleep. I won't spoil either. Although you might be able to make a guess.
I often go on about how good the performances are in Big Finish stories. So much so that its almost a given. Everyone in this story seems pretty good, even if there's a couple of odd accents going on. Particularly fab is Miles Richardson as Darwin though. His angry thinking allowed responses to realizing what the Silurian's existence means for his world view is so well-played. It's a man moving through a crisis of faith and through to a whole new 'faith'.
I'm aware that this is one of my quibbles with Big Finish stories. That they sometimes undermine a historical figures achievements by making them look like they were fed to them by the Doctor or their adventures with the Doctor. Actually this starts with Timelash where every one of H.G. Wells's ideas seems to come c/o that story rather than from Wells's own imagination. Big Finish do it a bit with Mary Wollstonecraft in her stories with the Eighth Doctor. There's a little of that here but actually the best thing about it is that you can here Charles Darwin thinking through his ideas and taking them to their logical conclusion.
Indeed Darwin is the counter to Tulok. One is human being realizing their might not be a divine creator. The other a Silurian who wants to be God.
My other quibble is the ending. There's a lot of luck and convenience involved. It's still enjoyable, which I suppose is the best thing, but it borders on the unbelievable. But this is a problem with the ending of a lot of Doctor Who. After all if you've set up an unbeatable, terrifying foe then finding a way to defeat them that doesn't involve a McGuffin, a big red re-set button or just plain dumb stupidity on behalf of the villain. It's tough to do an ending in a Doctor story that holds up to nit-picking analysis.
Actually I think I might be a tad harsh about the ending. It's set up well enough but there's one or two too many of those inexplicable reasons for not killing everyone or delaying departures long enough for the good guys to put their plan into effect.
However taken to its logical extent that kind of argument undermines the whole premise of Doctor Who. After all any bad guy with a brain would just kill him. If not the first time. Definitely the second time.
Oh and Colin Baker and Maggie Stables are wonderful again. The Sixth Doctor flies on Big Finish in a way he hardly ever gets a chance to do on the television series. Plus Maggie Stables gives Evelyn a fine line in chilled sarcasm that makes her rather delightful.
To cut a long blog short: listen to Bloodtide. It's great. Atmospheric, fun and with a bit of depth to it.