Black Thursday and Power Game

Posted in Audio by - February 14, 2019
Black Thursday and Power Game

Released February 2019

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

Over the past several years, Big Finish has mastered the hour-long storytelling format that the modern television series instilled into the public consciousness, providing streamlined glimpses into every era of Doctor Who without necessarily sacrificing anything that makes each one so unique. However, 2017 marked the first year that that particular style entered the main range with two two-part stories featuring in a single release for the Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Doctors, and the pairing of ‘Black Thursday’ and ‘Power Game’ looks to build upon those successes while continuing to explore the expanding dynamic of a Fifth Doctor TARDIS filled with Tegan, Turlough, and Kamelion.

Over the years, the Fifth Doctor has emerged as the definitive 1980s Doctor to helm historical adventures as he uses his more unassuming and everyman manner to naturally interact with the general populace to uncover the truths behind the mysteries and actions unfolding around him. In ‘Black Thursday’ by Jamie Anderson, the TARDIS arrives in 1902 in the small Welsh village of Abertysswg just as tragedy in the form of a gas explosion strikes its local mine. Unfortunately, this is not a disaster that the Doctor can avert, and while he strives to save as many as he can, it falls to Kamelion to inform one woman of the loss of her husband and son. For Kamelion, this presents a startling introduction to the powerful effects of grief on an individual, a power that is enough to unknowingly guide him to become a very real personification of the resulting desire for revenge that would otherwise have remained more or less silent. The story’s briefer length does mean that the prospect of Kamelion actually learning about death and its ramifications is only hinted at with a teasing question, but the immense emotion that Lizzie Roper brings to the role of the distraught Eira Hughes is a brilliant standout that leads to an unexpected resolution that dives deep into her personal past. Though again it would have been intriguing to see the community dynamics fleshed out in even more detail, the superb use of Kamelion and his unique traits make this a thoroughly enjoyable tale that brings to light one of the smaller but nonetheless crucial incidents in history that wisely shows the Doctor as neither a means of circumventing nor absolving the infamous horror that still resonates so profoundly in Abertysswg.

With Kamelion missing after contemplating leaving the TARDIS to finish the preceding story, Eddie Robson’s ‘Power Game’ focuses on a mysterious game show that appears without warning on all four major channels without the broadcasters’ knowledge in 1984 York. Understandably, the show has gained something of an obsessive following, and when Tegan likewise goes missing while searching for her missing companion, it’s the technology of the time with taped recordings that offer Turlough and the Doctor the only clues about what is happening. With Tegan one of a select few Earthlings taken to enter the Void Pit to find strange gems to allow the Hostess to return to her home dimension, Incredible Power Play’s challenges come with mortal consequences for failure. With Turlough unwittingly taken to be a competitor as well and the Doctor eventually tracking the location but unable to keep the TARDIS nearby, the truth behind the Hostess and the entire environment around them provides another surprising revelation that plays with perceptions and expectations extremely well. Of course, the immense setup and exploitation of the 1980s setting again means that there isn’t quite enough time to develop that resolution to its full effect, but the Doctor shows immense cunning and shrewdness to ensure justice is satisfyingly served. Filled with ambition and creativity, ‘Power Play’ again highlights the unique qualities of Kamelion who by his very nature is not subject to a single stream of development, but although he stars more distinctly in the narrative within the narrative, this is very much an opportunity for the other three leads to come all that much more together as a team.

As an encapsulation of the sheer range Doctor Who is capable of, it’s hard to think of a better duet of stories. Peter Davison, Mark Strickson, and Janet Fielding continue to excel both when their characters are together and apart, both scripts make each relevant even within the shorter running times, and the productions shine at every level. Hopefully Kamelion does acquire some more lasting development in future stories, but he is used expertly to drive both plots in very distinct manners, and it’s all too clear just how many storytelling opportunities remain for this seldom-seen companion who closes out this set with a summons to return to his planet of origin.

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