Released October 2007
‘Absolution’ is an important release for Big Finish as the Eighth Doctor prepares to enter a new era. This is the story that sees C’rizz die, and the production certainly manages to evoke the feeling of a spectacle event to mark the occasion. The scope of this story is absolutely tremendous, and the imagery of the settings and action-packed battles certainly make it easy to envision as a television adventure. C’rizz has been hearing a new voice on top of the multitudes he saved, one begging for him to help more people on a dying world, and when Charley opens his religious Absolver in his room, all of Hell breaks loose as the Doctor’s sins threaten to catch up to him.
As the TARDIS console room explodes in a shower of blood, the Doctor manages to land the TARDIS in a fortress standing in a desolate and burning landscape. With demons populating the land, C’rizz has somehow become an apprentice to a devilish warlord. This is very much a story about C’rizz and the eventual sacrifice that he makes, but this focus comes at the detriment of two other facets of the story. The first is that, after the climax, no satisfying explanation is given regarding the fate of the secondary cast. Secondly, despite some extremely intriguing plot points such as the TARDIS being reconfigured and invaded , a collection of time-locked spaceships, and a religious fortress being attacked by demons, they never really have any substantial meaning in the overall story and, indeed, some are dropped completely quite early on before any sort of payoff can occur. There’s a rich tapestry of ideas, but they never come together to create something altogether more cohesive and enjoyable.
Conrad Westmaas has always done great work as C’rizz, and that does not change in ‘Absolution,’ but it never seemed as though Big Finish had a coherent plan in place for him at the start either. As such, his characterization in different stories has been quite different, and new traits and characteristics were simply added as a story saw fit. Here, the warlord Aboresh shows C’rizz how to unlock his potential and evolve into something altogether more powerful, the Absolver of Souls. Seeing C’rizz give in to his darker temptations is a fascinating storyline, but the explanation and means by which it is achieved by having more information inexplicably show up such as C’rizz being meant to store his race’s souls until immortality is achieved is underwhelming. Ultimately confronting the Doctor and Charley to absorb their souls to offer them salvation as well, C’rizz instead decides to make the ultimate sacrifice to save his friends, though again the way in which he suddenly reverts back to his normal self before dissipating is not adequately explained. The entire C’rizz storyline here is ripe with drama and tension, but the needed background information is sadly lacking.
Yet as much as this story focuses on C’rizz and his journey, it also reaffirms just how strong the companionship between the Eighth Doctor and Charley can be. Here there is no real indication of any underlying romantic tension and there is no plot contrivance to drive them apart unduly; as a result, the two get to show how well they work together and complement each other, a reminder of Charley’s true potential. Likewise, the secondary cast is tremendous throughout the story. Robert Glenister’s Aboresh is the undoubted highlight, playing the conniving and ruthless villain with just the right mix of charm and over-the-top bombast. On the opposite side of the struggle, Hugh Fitzwilliam’s High Priest Cacothis is the perfect mirror as a man who will do whatever it takes to save his people. Natalie Mendoza’s Lolanthia and Tony Barton’s and Geoff Breton’s guards are also definite highlights.
The death of a companion is a rarity in Doctor Who, and although C’rizz was never fully given the chance to explore his full potential, the subtraction of Conrad Westmaas will certainly be felt. Though the Doctor is unable to put into words his feelings of loss in a manner adequate for Charley, the raw emotion that Charley exudes after experiencing a true loss for the first time in a long while is powerful and heartbreaking, and her request for the Doctor to take her home makes for an intriguing plot thread for the future.