Dreamland

Posted in Audio by - April 04, 2018
Dreamland

Released April 2006

With a long-standing series of coincidences revealed to be anything but as Sarah’s fated role as the Herald of the Orbus Postremo comes more into focus, the second and final series of Big Finish’s Sarah Jane Smith comes to a close with ‘Dreamland,’ a quieter and more character-driven piece that sees Sarah questioning what exactly she believes in while trying to deal with the tragic consequences of recent events as Sir Donald Wakefield offers her the chance of a lifetime to fulfill what he believes to be her destiny.

The relationships among Sarah, Josh, and Natalie have been anything but rock solid over the previous eight releases as secrets and Sarah’s paranoia have pushed each to emotional and sometimes physical extremes, but ‘Dreamland’ shows the team at its most distraught, tenuously close to falling apart while reeling with the fallout of the harrowing events of ‘Fatal Consequences.’ Given the somewhat uneven writing of the first series, Natlie’s occasional absences from stories, and Sarah’s prolonged time alone, the fact that this group strain is so effective is a true testament to the power and charisma of the actors, a combination that again manifests with her friends firmly by her side in the profoundly impactful finale as Sarah directly confronts her mysterious fate. Truly, ‘Dreamland’ is a prolonged exploration of Sarah’s emotional state as she tries to cope with the shock of everything that has occurred while using her beloved time with the Doctor as a frame of reference against which to judge, and Elisabeth Sladen gives perhaps her most understated but riveting performance yet as Sarah must endure a full range of emotions as her circumstances become ever more dangerous.

Stephen Grief’s Sir Donald Wakefield is sympathetic and open here as he reveals his dedication to accelerating the space shuttle’s launch to correspond with the passing Mandragora Helix even as he struggles to hold onto life, and his pleas for Sarah to join him on his journey are heartfelt and offer at least a semblance of narrative reasoning for why Sarah would agree to go into space. Of course, with Josh needing to take his father’s place to see the White Chapter’s plans to fruition, it makes perfectly logical- if again bordering on convenient- sense that the pilot of the shuttle should be a secretive member of the Crimson Chapter who has continued with his own side’s beliefs despite the previous setback and defeat. There’s a really nice acceleration of pace and tension here as the shuttle far exceeds its planned trajectory and goes out of contact with the people on the surface below, but Josh’s ultimate actions are nonetheless somewhat ridiculous within the confined and isolated setting even if his intentions are righteous and fitting with everything he has done previously. Still, the fallout does allow for some spectacular internal exploration by Sarah who gets to reflect on exactly who she is, and the open-ended visual of the mysterious glow engulfing all around her is a wonderful cliffhanger that could realistically herald the arrival of a new beginning or the finality of the end.

Writer David Bishop and director John Ainsworth have combined to craft a confident second series of Sarah Jane Smith that better shows the true potential of the character within this more immediate universe as she struggles to reconcile her past with her present. With some truly excellent sound design that brings the shuttle and space to life vividly, ‘Dreamland’ is an immersive experience that overcomes a few final narrative contrivances to deliver an impactful finale for everyone involved and that just may remain open-ended forever.

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