A Life of Crime

Posted in Audio by - July 15, 2016
A Life of Crime

Released July 2016

After the darker and more and emotional releases that have filled Big Finish’s release schedule to begin 2016, ‘A Life of Crime’ offers a decidedly lighter affair, bringing Melanie Bush back into the Seventh Doctor’s life at an undetermined time following the events of ‘Dragonfire’ but ultimately unsure of what type of story it wants to be.

‘A Life of Crime’ begins with the funeral of ‘Lefty’ Lonnegan, a half-human/half-cyborg crime lord, who had retired on the tropical paradise planet of Ricosta. Lonnegan was a known associate of Sabalom Glitz, himself the partner of Mel, and thus the story reintroduces Mel while exploring just what has become of her. While this is undoubtedly Mel’s story, the hectic and non-linear plot juggles a lot of moving pieces during its lengthy running time, beginning as a seemingly straightforward con/heist story with plenty of duplicity before turning into an altogether different invasion story with an entire planet at stake. The alien Speravore race introduced in this story is fascinating and, though the sound effects and mannerisms chosen for them may be offputting to some, they are a species perfect for the audio medium as they revel in absorbing potential futures. Likewise, though the non-linear narrative style chosen can often result in a disappointing and unfulfilling experience, it comes off remarkably well here to bring together its disparate and somewhat disjointed storylines nicely.

Still, Mel is undoubtedly the centrepiece of this tale, and Bonnie Langford does very well in portraying a slightly more seasoned and experienced version of her character. The standout scene is undoubtedly one in which the Seventh Doctor and Mel discuss how they have both changed since they parted ways, the Doctor becoming darker and more manipulative and Mel seeming to have adopted some of Glitz’s less admirable characteristics. Of course, there is an underlying respect and friendship between these two, and deeper motivations and truths are revealed that end up painting both in a very flattering light. Mel has not simply become entwined in a world of crime and heists, carrying on the legacy of the Doctor’s righteousness even when exploring new worlds and cultures, a fitting continuation for Mel and her undying sense of morality. There is, of course, the question of where exactly this story fits into the Doctor’s timeline after Mel initially left, and given Ace’s parallels to her portrayal in ‘Dragonfire’ as well as her penchant for Nitro-9, it certainly seems like a rather early tale, making the Doctor’s initial disappointment in the life Mel had chosen all the more tangible.

The disjointed aspects and tones are certainly jarring at first before they do come together, meaning that the overall experience isn’t necessarily the most fluid. However, the update on Mel is a very welcome one and the introduction of the Speravore and an intriguing mystery regarding just why and how Mel has entered the life again certainly help carry the story. In the end, what begins as a boldly simple con story ends up as a wild temporal rollercoaster ride with plenty of emotional touches and strong character development along the way.

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