Conflict Theory

Posted in Audio by - August 18, 2020
Conflict Theory

Released August 2020

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

No classic Doctor Who relationship has been quite as tumultuous and- with the help of Big Finish- ultimately well-developed as that between the Sixth Doctor and Peri. With the Doctor physically assaulting Peri following his regeneration in ‘The Twin Dilemma’ to seemingly abandoning her when she fell victim to a mind parasite as seen during his trial, this friendship is one with a foundation in peril and uncertainty, and it’s a testament to each character that they’ve been able to flourish and develop so successfully alongside each other over the years. In Nev Fountain’s ‘Conflict Theory,’ however, the Doctor’s overprotectiveness pushes Peri to the brink and she demands that they pursue counseling if she is to remain aboard the TARDIS, finding solace in an android group of Sigmund Freuds poised to delve deeply into their psyches to provide the answers they so desperately need.

In many ways, ‘Conflict Theory’ presents the Sixth Doctor and Peri at their most emotional extremes, and both Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant excel with wholly invested performances that sell just how much the Doctor and Peri believe in their individual actions and responses as they recount past experiences to their therapists. It’s little secret that Peri, like many of the Doctor’s companions, has come to revel in the excitement that the danger that follows the Doctor invites, but it’s this very same exposure to danger that brings the two here and uncovers a surprisingly poignant aspect of the Doctor that traces back to his earliest incarnation. The story may take a few liberties with how it presents the various friendships and relationships the Doctor has fostered with his many distinct companions through his travels, but the resulting exploration of who the Doctor is and what he strives to achieve is expertly portrayed in vivid detail that draws attention to the titular Time Lord in a way that few stories have ever managed.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, these connections to the Doctor’s long past and the many plot elements that tie into previous experiences involving the Sixth Doctor and Peri in a fashion serve to cover a somewhat tenuous foundation for these two being at odds with another here. By design, the two act wholly out of character when in the presence of the Freuds, but the circumstances involving the very particular death here don’t quite manage to develop as much as necessary to fully validate the Doctor’s sudden overprotective surge given everything he has been through and seen. That this wartime element is interspersed through the therapy narrative mildly lessens its overall impact since no momentum can be built while truly establishing the characters involved, and the inevitable narrative swerve to show these two long-time friends still firmly being allies intent on righting another wrong likewise suffers a little bit as a result even while the true camaraderie that had purposefully been missing up to that point immediately shines as brightly as ever.

Since Big Finish’s early days, the pairing of Baker and Bryant has always been one of the most captivating, and it’s great to see just how far the relationship between their characters can seemingly be pushed while further defining and refining the genuine compassion and strength of wills that have always been present. The apparent setup for this introspective and combative element doesn’t quite fully resonate, but that’s ultimately a minor quibble because the journey that the payoff takes the characters and listeners on is masterful and provides a thrilling conclusion to this box set that bodes incredibly well for the future.

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