Released September 2004
Paul McGann’s fourth series within Big Finish’s main range kicks off with ‘Faith Stealer,’ a mostly standalone story from new writer Graham Duff that sets a solid precedent after a somewhat uneven third series.
In its long history, Doctor Who has touched on many aspects of different religions on many occasions, and while ‘Faith Stealer’ doesn’t presume to get into a theological and philosophical debate about the merits and foundations of religion, the essence of religion is very much more prominent than in- quite possibly- any other story to date. The Multihaven is a fascinating setting for the story, a haven of sorts in which any religion can exist peacefully alongside any other one while its followers simultaneously compete to gain more worshippers and followers. The overseeing Bordinian encourages diversity in faiths, and it’s quite surprising and satisfying to see so many disparate faiths coexisting harmoniously. Some of these faiths are played for humour, a particular highlight being the worshippers of the almighty god Whoops in the Shrine of Serendipity who celebrate chaos for its own sake. Each of the faiths the Doctor and his companions come across offer some genuinely memorable lines and scenes, and that even holds true when they have to claim a religion in order to gain access to the Multihaven, stating that the Doctor and Charley belong to the faith of Tourists and worship C’rizz after starting each day with a cup of tea.
It’s not all humour and levity, however, as slowly the deeper aspects of religion are revealed, first simply in the sense of many not questioning religious teachings but then also through a metaphor that the parasitic Miraculite presents. Coming to existence through some sort of friction between universes or realities, its Lucidivism religion is one that is growing in power due to forceful conversion, something completely foreign to the Multihaven. Laan Carder as the principle disciple is particularly interesting, and his discussions with the Bordinian regarding the irrelevance of diversity of faith as well as the promise of true total harmony are incredibly engaging. As members of other faiths flee this religious persecution, the Doctor comes to the realization that Carder is a manifestation of pure faith itself, and by breaking Carder’s faith in himself he is able to defeat the Miraculite. There is, of course, a much deeper train of thought regarding religion and what it takes to convert followers, but the script wisely steers clear of this discussion and debate.
Aside from the plot, though, Duff does very well with his characterization as well. Charley quite rightly mentions early on that the Doctor and she still don’t know very much about C’rizz and, after he relives the haunting death of L’da, he finally decides to open up about his own religion and the Church of the Foundation for the first time, something hinted at back in his very first story. The suggestion is presented later in the story that C’rizz is full of remorse and self-doubt, opening him up to be controlled by the Miraculite, but his relative instability and alien nature still provide some unsure and intense moments even before then. The Doctor clearly likes C’rizz and wants to believe in him, but it’s fitting that even he should harbour some doubts after the events that have transpired. The Doctor himself is on top form here even after witnessing the apparent destruction of the TARDIS, using his keen skills of observation to realise that the looters within the multiverse are actually sleep deprived rather than simply manic and thus setting him on the trail of the Miraculite.
The supporting cast is on fine form as well, Christian Rodska avoiding the pitfall of making Carder sound like a stereotypical religious extremist and Tessa Shaw displaying an innate wisdom as the Bordinian. In fact, though, every character is aptly portrayed, lending an air of believability and extra life to this rather fantastic setting. ‘Faith Stealer’ really is a strong start to this new series that promises to head to the resolution of this Divergence arc, and its mostly standalone nature reintroduces the leads admirably well before delving into the more substantial underlying storylines.