Lies in Ruins

Posted in Audio by - July 17, 2019
Lies in Ruins

Released July 2019

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

To commemorate a staggering twenty years of new audio Doctor Who adventures, Big Finish presents arguably its most colossal and ambitious release yet with The Legacy of Time, six interlinked serials bringing together both expected and unexpected segments of the franchise’s vast mythology. With the fallout of one disaster putting time itself on the verge of collapse as episodes of pure chaos occur throughout his many lives, the Doctor and his many friends are the only hope the universe has left.

When Professor River Song was first introduced on television alongside the Tenth Doctor, comparisons to Professor Bernice Summerfield, the Doctor’s previous time-traveling archaeologist companion, were inevitable. However, as Bernice continued to thrive and develop within the audio medium and River continued to appear throughout so many of the Doctor’s regenerations in such a vital capacity, the unique qualities that each possessed continued to become all the more apparent, and writer James Goss finally brings these two self-assured and intelligent women together in ‘Lies in Ruins.’ Avoiding the potential pitfall of having their strong wills lead to a rivalry with continued attacks, however, the two quickly form an amazing camaraderie that hints at just where they originate in terms of the Doctor’s timeline and that makes the most of the unique skillset and distinct modes of operation that each possesses. With the trademark sarcasm and even cynicism present as the Doctor arrives to aid them in their exploration of a mysterious planet that has just appeared with their dreams of ruins of a lost civilisation, Bernice and River prove that they might just be the only ones who can put the other in her place when needed, and Lisa Bowerman and Alex Kingston prove again just why they are so important to the franchise as a whole and why their characters are so beloved while teasing at just how truly glorious these two could be together in a continuing series if ever given the opportunity.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, however, is the fact that the Eighth Doctor very much becomes the focus of ‘Lies in Ruins,’ emphasized by Bernice’s comment about just how much he has changed from the laugh in a velvet coat she used to know to the hardened man she now finds standing before her. This is the Eighth Doctor as he has never truly been presented in the audio medium before, on the very precipice of deciding to go to war after obeying the Time Lords’ cardinal rule to not interfere for so long but still being presented with grueling and tragic situations filled with loss all too often. Yet Bernice and River can’t understand why, despite the precipice the Doctor finds himself on at this time, he has decided to travel with Ria whom even River does not recognise. A young woman who is unfalteringly upbeat and naïve yet seemingly infatuated with the very notion of adventure, Ria by design fills the role of a prototypical classic series companion and herself becomes an immensely intriguing comparison point to highlight just how differently female companions are now written. Indeed, she provides a reason for the two archaeologists to instantly bond, but the tragic truth behind her existence proves to be all the more vital to developing the Doctor and where his mindset is at this time of crisis as he craves simply to be told what a good job he is doing above all else. Alexandria Riley of Big Finish’s audio Torchwood fame imbues an incredible amount of energy to this well-intentioned companion who poignantly admits that she harbours a fear of the Doctor despite the many wonders he is capable of, and what initially seems like a one-note companion designed more to annoy quickly becomes one of the more captivating characters with whom the Eighth Doctor has traveled.

As strong as the characterisation of the leads throughout is, and Paul McGann taking his Doctor to the point of crafting a weapon to enact his vengeance is certainly one of the more haunting Big Finish has produced while staying in line with the character’s known trajectory in ‘The Night of the Doctor,’ the setting is just as fascinating. Goss presents the characters’ accounts of the planet so assuredly that the distinctions between them are easily overlooked until contextually compared with the desires of those observing. With salvagers in space likewise claiming this planet and its vast resources that fill every need on their list as their own and unafraid to assault those on the surface to achieve their goal, the revelation that this is a ruined Gallifrey that has somehow appeared in this present and that the Doctor hopes to revive and even weaponize is incredibly audacious and yet completely satisfying from a narrative standpoint and again offers a stark and brutal look at the Doctor’s hardened mentality at this time. As could only be expected with the Time War a lingering background threat, however, even assumed basic truths are anything but, and the pyrrhic victory he allows once he realises the truth of his surroundings leaves just enough of an open-endedness to the Eighth Doctor’s imminent future to suggest that all hope might not yet be lost.

‘Lies in Ruins’ is a masterful beginning to this celebratory set, bringing together arguably the most important women to both Big Finish and the Doctor and telling a story much bigger than either that surprises and entertains in equal measure to the credits and beyond. Each actor is on top form, and the sound design and direction allow these distinct eras of Doctor Who to blend effortlessly. Little more could be asked of a story regardless of its function in a set, and although it is only loosely linked to the overall arc that is to follow, the bar has been set incredibly high and unequivocally proves just how dynamic this franchise continues to be.

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