Released January 2015
With the fiftieth anniversary in the past, Big Finish returns to the stories of the Sixth Doctor and new companion, Flip Jackson, with a story that hearkens back to Colin Baker’s televised era. Writer Philip Martin is responsible for two of the most ambitious stories of the Sixth Doctor era, ‘Vengeance on Varos’ that made such good use of biting satire and ‘Mindwarp’ that marked the franchise’s first true attempt at unreliable narration. In ‘Antidote to Oblivion,’ the Universal Monetary Fund and its famed representative Sil return, proposing very strict austerity measures to bail out a bankrupt future Britain.
Unfortunately, Philip Martin doesn’t transfer that same sense of ambition to ‘Antidote to Oblivion,’ recycling several narrative threads from his previous stories while making Earth officials seem like fools for so accepting his plan to reduce the population by some ninety percent without protest or even flinching. That said, Sil still proves to be an immensely engaging creation and arguably the most famous of Colin Baker’s tenure, and Nabil Shaban recaptures his villainous role easily as the greedy money-driven being from Thoros Beta always looks out for himself and profits first and foremost. With the script unevenly channeling elements of the Sixth Doctor from both before his trial and from Big Finish’s more mellow version and Flip being strictly stock companion material with nothing to take full advantage of Lisa Greenwood, Sil is certainly the anchor that gives a sense of steadiness to these proceedings.
At the very least, the imagery employed to describe this future dystopian Earth is very effective. With ConCorp manufacturing Population Pacification and Mind Control drugs and people drinking bottled water laced with suppressants, the toxic and barren London is evocatively visual and successful. The Velendari are interesting in concept though perhaps ultimately less effective in reality and almost superfluous to the story once introduced, a psychic bacterial intelligence wanting to leave the microbial world to conquer new realms certainly at least showing a flash of ambition and tying into Sil’s dastardly plans well enough.
However, watching ‘Vengeance on Varos’ and ‘Mindwarp’ and listening to or reading ‘Mission to Magnus’ will give listeners a general idea of everything that will play out in ‘Anitdote to Oblivion,’ and the same concepts become less effective as they are introduced time and time again. Quite why Sil is always so obsessed with threatening terrible experimentation on the Doctor’s companions is never fully explained other than for a desire to heighten drama, but assuredly Sil is capable of thinking of more than one way to do so. Strangely, as more or less a throwaway line that comes with little buildup or fallout, the script reveals that Sil murdered Crozier after Peri’s transplant into Lord Kiv failed. Assumedly this and Peri’s unknown fate must be building to an upcoming storyline given how haphazardly it is revealed, but this does at least allow for a very touching scene from the Doctor as he admits that Peri’s fate still weighs heavily on his mind.
Still, all of ‘Antidote to Oblivion’ is clearly meant to be a showcase for Sil, and fans listening solely for another Sil story will be immensely pleased. However, fans looking for something new or deeper could be left wanting as Martin fails to fully capture the Big Finish Sixth Doctor and Flip and struggles to find a consistency in pacing that all create a rather uneven experience.