How to Make a Killing in Time Travel

Posted in Audio by - April 12, 2018
How to Make a Killing in Time Travel

Released April 2018
SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

As the Doctor and Liv Chenka continue their search to discover the whereabouts of erstwhile companion Helen Sinclair in John Dorney’s ‘How to Make a Killing in Time Travel,’ a disturbance in the vortex causes the TARDIS to materialise on the Scapegrace space station where Cornelius Morningstar is funding research into time travel technology to employ for distinctly immoral purposes. With the many conflicting agendas of criminal, murderers, and alien dynasties fighting for prominence, however, the Doctor soon finds that stopping Morningstar is hardly as simple and straightforward as he initially thinks.

It seems quite clear that the intention for ‘How to Make a Killing in Time Travel’ is to craft a sort of black comedy akin to something like Fargo, a tone and genre that Doctor Who has only very lightly and very sporadically touched upon in its long history. There’s undoubtedly a wealth of potential to be mined from what ultimately becomes a crime story fused with a farce, but the trouble with this type of ambitious story in a one-hour format is that there simply isn’t enough time for the supporting characters to all fully develop, the result being that- despite some unique quirks and characteristics- many simply fill a generic role in a fairly one-dimensional capacity to continue the trend of the criminals making things worse for themselves as events continue to spiral out of control. Indeed, although the drama all inherently feeds into the framing device of the time travel technology, it’s unfortunate for the story as a whole that the aspect of the machine finally becoming functional before quickly beginning to leak tachyon particles into the vortex and threatening to tear space-time apart after an attack is far more engaging and fascinating than the murder, criminal asperations, and bomb attack that come to define these characters as moralities and desires collide. It’s only with the machine causing such potential destruction that a true sense of tension overtakes events, but unfortunately the resolution plays out with an important part out of the audience’s area of focus, taking away a portion of that moment of emotional triumph that actually experiencing the Doctor and his companion overcome a problem brings out so naturally. This is perhaps another sacrifice that the time constraints for this packed release necessitated.

All of that’s not to say that ‘How to Make a Killing in Time Travel’ is a complete misfire, and it must absolutely be stated that comedy- and there are some genuinely comedic moments- is subjective, meaning that the main thrust of the plot will unquestionably appeal to some more than others. Judith Roddy is wonderfully engaging as the seemingly well-intentioned but tragic Stralla Cushing slowly reveals her true motives and intentions to become the one standout character, and the Head of Security Macy who is all too prone to blurting out confidential information after assuring those around him that he can’t say anything and who introduces himself as a man who simply confiscates weapons to prevent trouble and who can’t handle a true crime is sure to leave a lasting impact thanks to the stylings of Christopher Ryan. As a whole, though, this is a very busy script that frequently jumps between viewpoints at the expense of really delving into these characters’ mindsets, and with the same plot elements revealed at very different times in different viewpoints, the pacing just doesn’t quite flow as seamlessly as Dorney’s scripts often do. It can’t be doubted that this is a bold attempt to do something new with Doctor Who, a fact that in itself must be commended as this script is on anything but traditional autopilot, and Paul McGann and Nicola Walker give their typically profound performances even as the many plotlines do result in a bit less overall action for the two. Featuring the typical superb sound design, however, Scapegrace and its many conflicts come to life vividly, but releasing a second consecutive standalone tale that at least to this point has no direct ties to the search for Helen and the fallout of Doom Coalition (a fact that could absolutely change retrospectively in the any of the upcoming Ravenous releases) is an odd approach that leaves Ravenous 1 feeling as if it has really yet to get started midway through its four instalments.

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