Death’s Deal

Posted in Audio by - January 02, 2018
Death’s Deal

Released October 2013

Responding to multiple recorded maydays that are all that remain of terrified, lost souls, the Tenth Doctor and Donna Noble boldly enter the realm of Big Finish audios as they land upon Death’s Deal, the planet nicknamed the deadliest in the galaxy. Stranded with an eclectic group of tourists, the Doctor soon discovers that a secret that must never be unearthed lays beneath the planet’s surface and that the travelers have very individual goals besides simply surviving the harsh environment and frenzied wildlife.

Much like with ‘Night of the Whisper,’ director John Ainsworth and Big Finish impress with the seeming ease with which the manic energy of the modern Doctor Who series translates to audio, and it’s clear that writer Darren Jones has a firm grasp on the dynamic that made the latter portion of David Tennant’s tenure so successful. It’s fitting that the Eleventh Doctor would hold the Tenth in such high regard and trust him most in a dangerous situation, and the alacrity with which he jumps around the TARDIS console, the incredible speed at which his mind works, and the implicit faith and trust he has in his companion instantly bring this vibrant Tenth incarnation to life with the help of Catherine Tate’s impressive and caring impersonation. Tate also recaptures the spirited fight of Donna Noble perfectly, and it’s poignantly satisfying to hear her voice just how much her world has expanded since joining the Doctor as she comes upon new alien species and hunts for the TARDIS, along the way briefly losing all pretense of brazenness when she faces the near certainty of impending death.

The notion of the TARDIS being swallowed whole on such a dangerous planet of living coral that is alive and always hungry paints an ominous picture right from the start, and the unexpected arrival of the space tourists adds yet another element for the Doctor to contend against as he tries to ensure everyone’s safety while continuing his own search. Intriguingly, though, on a planet full of slaughter crystals that have the potential to devastate worlds when refined, the world of Death’s Deal itself is not naturally a dangerous locale. Instead, it’s the amplification of the ever-increasing amount of distress signals that has sent the wildlife into a permanently frenzied state, a clever subversion of expectations that adds emotional resonance to the plight of being trapped on this world that is so brilliantly personified by Duncan Wisbey’s long-trapped and long-suffering Erskine and his forgotten connection to the very present staring him in the face.

Though the narration is sometimes a bit overly descriptive and none of the secondary characters really come to life in any meaningful fashion next to the spectacular characterization of the two leads, it really is the inherent peril of this world and the return of the beloved and charismatic Tenth Doctor and Donna who must keep Erskine alive at any cost that form the backbone of ‘Death’s Deal.’ While it’s difficult to necessarily say that there’s the same sense of nostalgia for such a recent era as there is for the classic ones, it’s only too obvious that this is a cherished era for long-term and newer fans alike that Big Finish has recreated spectacularly, paving the way for full-cast adventures and definitively proving that the Russell T Davies era in all of its many forms is still ripe for exploration.

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