Released February 2009
‘The Destroyer of Delights’ is the middle installment of Big Finish’s Key 2 Time trilogy, instilling its enormously high stakes with a slightly lighter tone as the Guardians’ power wanes as the effects of time and entropy take hold. It is through this lessening scope of power that the Guardians gain further characterization and depth, trapped as they are in normal five-dimensional space in ninth-century Sudan. Although it is the Black Guardian who seems to be the focus of the piece given David Troughton’s dominating visage on the audio packaging, both Guardians are, indeed, present, their ages-old battle still ongoing on a smaller scale as the Black Guardian has taken on the role of Lord Cassim Ali Baba and the White Guardian has taken on the role of the Legate of the Caliph al-Mutawakkil.
Yet while the Black Guardian is written as a man of chaos and crime and the White Guardian is written as a character of law and order, the script wisely shows how the former is not necessarily bad and the latter not inherently good, adding a much-needed dynamic aspect to the characters who still sometimes seem somewhat flat. David Troughton is superb as the Black Guardian, able to channel Valentine Dyall when needed but also adding a sort of brazen cheek and bemusement to the character. Likewise, Jason Watkins is suitably strong as the White Guardian, a character who has gone from being a sweeping universal moral compass to a man more obsessed with the minutiae of bureaucracy.
It’s clear that writer Jonathan Clements has done ample research into the setting and time period of this piece, and the ambience and information from both the script itself as well as the stunning sound design pay tremendous dividends as the Doctor and Amy continue their quest for another segment of the Key to Time. When Amy is separated from the Doctor and turned into a slave by Prince Omar, she learns the harsh truth about the times. Jess Robinson’s slave Nisrin provides the perfect voice to accompany Ciara Janson’s Amy as her characterization and personality continue to build and form. At the same time, Peter Davison is on top form, able to showcase both his more dramatic and more comedic acting skills as he dominates momentous scene after momentous scene.
While ‘The Destroyer of Delights’ is not presented as a strict historical, it does do well in offering a science fiction twist to a legend of the past. Both One Thousand and One Nights and Aladdin clearly serve as inspiration for some of the events here, but the twist of Genie being an alien trader is rather well done. In fact, the script is littered with surprising twists that keep the momentum and intensity flowing from beginning to end. And while ‘The Destroyer of Delights’ does not feature an all-powerful clash between the Guardians that the script seemed to be teasing and intimating, the overall journey is still an intriguing one. Unfortunately the aspect of bringing the Guardians down to a human level is also the aspect that most hinders the script because the overall scope of events is significantly diminished, a microcosm of what would otherwise be possible. The inclusion of the Guardians and what they would normally be possible given a certain inconsequential air to events no matter how interesting they may be. Though there are several exceptions, second installments of trilogies often tend to lag a bit compared to the opening and closing acts, but ‘The Destroyer of Delights’ certainly tells an engaging- if flawed- story that continues the storyline set forth in ‘The Judgement of Isskar’ while blazing its own path and altering mythology along the way.