Dead London

Posted in Audio by - August 31, 2017
Dead London

Released January 2008

While the first season of The Eighth Doctor Adventures was by no means perfect, it quickly rehabilitated Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor who many claimed had become somewhat stale in Big Finish’s flagship monthly range following his return from the divergent universe, mirroring the modern television series with snappier fifty-minute stories and introducing the dynamic Sheridan Smith as new companion Lucie Miller. From the mind of comics legend Pat Mills, ‘Dead London’ opens the second series and looks to maintain the momentum created by a strong first season finale.

The central conceit of ‘Dead London’ is engaging right from the start as the time zone changes and the Doctor suddenly finds himself sentenced to death by hanging far in the past after being accused of a parking offense in modern-day London. As Lucie finds herself wandering the streets during a 1917 zeppelin raid in World War I, it’s clear that something is amiss with time itself. However, undoubtedly due to the brief running time, there’s no real time to explore these different time zones and their connecting river, a quick scene and a casual mention of the year being mostly what is offered for each. Still, the fact that the denizens of these time zones have been programmed to accept the shifting environments they know do not make sense is an intriguing notion that overcomes this obstacle and further amplifies the mystery of what exactly is occurring.

Unfortunately, after a strong introduction of Rupert Vansittart’s villainous Sepulchre and his many avatars, the exact relationship between this foe and the many differing time zones falls somewhat flat. There are a couple of indications earlier that things are not quite as succinctly explained as the Doctor may believe, but no real explanation is offered as to how the plot twist came to be, why it should be accepted, or why there would even be a device that could effectively undo the cohesive web he had created. The twist itself is an immensely interesting one, but without the requisite information needed, it simply feels like it was an idea that came to Mills partway through the story since both its introduction and non-resolved ending are both quite abrupt.

Nonetheless, though the plot is somewhat lacking on multiple fronts and the season opening story strangely separates its leads for a substantial portion, the acting is brilliant from beginning to end. It should come as no surprise that Paul McGann once again effortlessly brings this Eighth Doctor’s energetic mix of charisma, wit, and darkness to life, and Sheridan Smith again brings Lucie’s confidence and brashness to the forefront even as the character is somewhat more sidelined than usual. Alongside them, Vansittart is spectacular in his various roles and clearly enjoys the opportunity to partake in more villainous stylings, and though not quite as much is done with fully developing Spring-Heeled Sophie beyond being someone to fill the companion void, Clare Buckfield is never anything less than enthralling in the role.

‘Dead London’ is filled with strong ideas, but it lacks the sense of logical progression and the resounding resolution it needs to truly stand out among its peers. Thus, while it is a perfectly serviceable season opener, the production values and the actors themselves are the true stars on display.

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