Colony of Fear

Posted in Audio by - January 22, 2021
Colony of Fear

Released January 2021

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

As the Sixth Doctor’s leading role within Big Finish’s long-standing The Monthly Adventures comes to a close in Roland Moore’s ‘Colony of Fear,’ the Doctor and Constance have answered a distress call and found human colonists fighting against an onslaught of insects with stings that leave the victims in a comatose state. However, while assisting colony’s governor to help determine the origin of this emerging menace, the Doctor must confront a past he has no memory of and the consequences of his own actions.

The rather straightforward title of this release certainly evokes the spirit of so many classic Doctor Who stories, and whether intended or not, the story itself is filled with a hodgepodge of ideas that several tales have already developed and explored. The Doctor integrating himself into a society under duress is commonplace and an almost necessary expository step, but the presence of an extravagant collector piloting a ship, of the hive mind mentality of the insects and the terrifying secret their stings later bring about, and of some mental trickery preceding a predictably explosive finale offer little new for this range to explore. There is no denying that the actual body horror element that these insects present is effectively terrifying even if the lack of a size limit on their life cycle seems like something of a superfluous detail, and Constance coming from a time of war and confronting another society edging ever closer to that state certainly provides some standout material, but the brief glimpses of what may have been a more cohesive story are lost amidst the incredible number of plot points on display.

Especially with the most recent televised series but nevertheless more commonly in recent years, the overall mythology and continuity of Doctor Who have proven to be anything but known. Here, rather than presenting secret incarnations of the Doctor like Steven Moffat or Chris Chibnall, Moore taps into the Second Doctor’s missing memories because of the Time Lords and presents- after a somewhat underwhelming cliffhanger- the notion that he once had a male companion that he left behind several decades before his own time when they parted ways. On the surface, this is an intriguing element that forces the Doctor to confront his actions and the unintended consequences that he often leaves in his wake, and Andrew James Spooner has a few moments to truly convey the conflicted emotions that have been brewing inside while this character has waited for a time when he can once more reveal his identity after living for so long under an assumed one. However, because the Doctor has no knowledge of these events, the proper words the Time Lord expresses to convey what he is supposed to feel don’t quite manage to carry the resonance that experience and memory would allow. It’s quite possible that this erstwhile companion will come to feature in future releases featuring the Second Doctor or any other later incarnation to add more weightiness to this storyline here, but as it is this character who can sometimes come off as larger than life is difficult to fully invest in without either the Doctor or the audience having any knowledge of him or what he has been through besides the obvious torture of being so close and yet so far from his normal life for so long while ultimately finding out how little actually changes when reconnecting with that life. The Doctor choosing to walk away when given the opportunity to learn about his past is only a further narrative letdown.

Colin Baker unsurprisingly gives an immense performance that traverses a wide range of emotions, but the supporting cast as a whole and shockingly even Constance who is too often reduced to simply reacting rather than acting are somewhat forgettable. There are plenty of good ideas littered throughout the story, but the lost companion who chooses to stay behind doesn’t quite succeed because of the total lack of knowledge surrounding him, and everything else has been done more effectively elsewhere when all companions are a known quantity. With this particular audio range wrapping up, ending the Sixth Doctor’s adventures with so many more questions raised than answers provided is disappointing even when evaluating this story in isolation, and hopefully any fallout that occurs in future releases is able to re-frame these events with a more emotional foundation.

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