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BBC Radio Play: Death Comes to Time

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Author Topic: BBC Radio Play: Death Comes to Time  (Read 196 times)
Vampyros Adric
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« on: August 03, 2012, 11:54:11 am »

I haven't done a review for a little while and, as I was away on holiday, I had plenty of chance to listen to some amazing Doctor Who Audio stuff. One of the first I listened to was a story that has polarised opinion in the Whoniverse. Some view it as an imaginative homage, a post-modern take on the Doctor Who universe, whilst others would see it happily fall into one of those cracks in time that nabbed poor Rory in series 5 after having been exterminated and deleted in equal measures just to be sure. Ladies & Gentlemen I present to you...


Here is the précis from the back of the box...

When a dissident Time Lord group inadvertently caused the destruction of an entire civilisation through interference, its members vowed to repent by serving the Universe not as gods of Time but as mere men. Many years later, this peaceful resolve is severely tested when two of their number are killed ... and the Doctor's seventh incarnation becomes embroiled in the struggle against the apparently unstoppable General Tannis.

Plagued by ominous portents, the Doctor and his companion Antimony must race across the Universe, taking in the Santine Republic, the Great Orion Nebula and the frozen heart of the Canisian Empire. Meanwhile the mysterious Minister of Chance battles his own inner demons, and former TARDIS traveller Ace finds herself in training for a destiny she never dreamed possible. Matters reach a terrible climax when Tannis' next target for subjugation is identified. Exactly how much is the Doctor prepared to sacrifice in order to save Earth?

Sylvester McCoy, Stephen Fry and John Sessions star in an explosive, action...packed adventure in five episodes specially created for audio.

First webcast on BBCi and also featuring Sophie Aldred, Anthony Stewart Head and Jacqueline Pearce, Death Comes to Time is an original audio adventure uniting elements from the Doctor's past with bold and original ideas for his future. This CD release includes a full...colour illustrated booklet detailing the story's settings and characters.

 
"O Liberté, que de crimes on commet en ton nom" (Oh liberty, what crimes are committed in thy name) If Mme Roland hadn't been born as a French revolutionary and instead (like myself) was a committed fan of Doctor Who, she might have replaced the word "Liberty" with the word "Canon". There are corners of our little fandom that will slaughter people who suggest that the Doctor should take an aspirin or can have 14 regenerations or indeed that any of the backstory that has been established over the last 49 1/2 years.

I must confess to hating the idea that Doctor Who has become almost crippled by its own backstory that writers have no freedom to do anything remotely interesting with the show. And I'm not alone. RTD saw the dangers of having such canon imposed on him that he destroyed Gallifrey. I like a bit of context but I think there is a real danger that sometimes the show can disappear up its own time vortex. Accordingly, I like stories that challenge the established canon and overturn some of the things that limit the show.

Imagine my glee, therefore, when I discover a story that so utterly shreds canon, it makes the "Unbound" series seem like a writers guide! I cannot give too much away without spoiling the story for you (and the surprises that unfold are one of the great treats of this production.)

However the main highlights are...

[spoiler] Turns out (at the end of the story) that the Doctor is, in fact, A "God of the Fourth" and has the power to manipulate space time events simply by uttering the "right words" (for "right" you could also read "magic")

The code of the "Gods of the Fourth" are that, if they want to trot around as normal people, they are not allowed to use these powers. So all the time the Doc has been in tricky scrapes in the past he could have uttered these words but didn't because it would have broken the rules on non-involvement - and we know what a stickler the Doctor is for rules...oh.

Ace is, in fact, a trainee time lord and spends most of the story doing her training and when the Doctor turns into a God it is Ace who is left as the last of the time lords. [/spoiler]

So as you can see. It pretty much takes the established show and tips it on its head. It is gruesome and chilling in places - the body count is phenomenally high and the story and there are some really horrid moments. The producer is Dan Freedman and although the story is credited to Colin Meek it is a largely unguarded secret that this is a pseudonym for Freedman. The writing is very good and if Meek attempted to create an epic storyline, then he has certainly succeeded.

The acting, as one would expect from the cast list, is simply superb. Stephen Fry (of Twitter fame) and John Sessions are magnificent, Sophie Aldred's Ace is both believable and gives a tantalising glimpse of how Ace might have developed. Leonard Fenton and Kevin Eldon provide wonderful back ups and Jon Culshaw is equally as protean, with 3 different roles!

But the absolute and shinning star of this is Sylvester McCoy. In the midst of all of the talent and campery, McCoy is just wondrous. Both strong and powerful, yet vulnerable and gentle. With every episode you find yourself wishing for McCoy to return to the big screen and play, possibly the ultimate iteration of the time lord. If there is nothing about this story that you like, then at least you will be able to appreciate the wonderful light and shade of McCoy's wonderful acting. The presentation is also stunning and the stereo mix on the CD is very high quality. But as with so much of the story, you will either adore the OTT orchestral soundtrack or it will irritate you beyond words.

So, would I recommend Death Comes to Time? A difficult one as, after hearing it, there is a 50% chance that you might wish to march me to the guillotine like poor Mme Roland (along with Freedman). It is a challenge and an interesting curio. Yet perversely, because it is so far off beam, it means that you can probably enjoy it without worrying to much about the canonicity - It is fair to say, Death Comes to Time is not canon Smiley
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« Reply #1 on: August 08, 2012, 05:00:51 pm »

The whole canon thing confuses me! I guess I haven't seen enough of the classic series for me to understand it!

Sounds like an interesting listen though! Something that appeals to me! Smiley
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« Reply #2 on: August 18, 2012, 12:03:39 pm »

I have to admit, I am a total canon hugger. I love it. I love the backstory and mythology of it all. I love when it gets self referential and I love that it has such a rich and deep history. However, I am a massive fan of the audios, most of which spin canon on it's head in one way or another, be it small things like a dead character suddenly alive and well, or, like above, huge masses of story being completely rewritten. For the sake of a good audio or novel I can cope with it. It gives an interesting spin and opens up other possibilities that are a bit of fun for 45 minutes but ultimately don't interfere with anything that happens on screen (which is for me where true canon comes into play). This story is great, but if they tried something like this in the show, not necessarily the plot but changes of such scale, I think I'd get out my ball point for a strongly worded letter.
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« Reply #3 on: August 18, 2012, 02:38:27 pm »

I really think this is one where you almost have to accept it for what it is and throw canon to the wind. Because it strays so far from the established lore of the show, it can almost be discounted and enjoyed as a curio rather than trying to make sense of it within the established parameters of the show.

I think if you imagine the following added to the last 30 seconds of the story then it makes a lot more sense;

THE DOCTOR: [Hazy voice FX] "Ace, Ace! Wake Up"

ACE: "Doctor you wouldn't believe the dream I just had"

THE DOCTOR: "Well you shouldn't have eaten all that cheese before you went to sleep. Now get ready, we've arrived at Atrazi V"

.......

And the whole story slips neatly into place Smiley
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