No Place

Posted in Audio by - May 18, 2019
No Place

Released May 2019

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

Big Finish ably proved all the way back in 1999 during Doctor Who’s television hiatus just how well the classic series could transfer to the audio medium, giving a dynamic second life to beloved characters while allowing nuanced and meaningful characterisation and development that didn’t always have the chance to flourish on screen. As the company for a time served as the only source of brand new Doctor Who with Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor, the return of the franchise to screens in 2005 naturally opened up a wealth of new storytelling opportunities set during and after the devastation of the Time War. While there have been plenty of audio spin-offs stemming from those new characters and situations that have all amply fleshed out the nooks and crannies of the modern series that has never been short on characterisation, the return of David Tennant to the role of the adored Tenth Doctor has arguably been the most impactful facet of this new direction with two box sets firmly proving just how well the energy and emotion of this era can similarly translate to audio. For the third set, Tennant and Catherine Tate reunite to revisit the modern iteration’s series four, and in James Goss’s opening ‘No Place,’ Donna’s family has joined the adventure.

Given this era’s penchant for exploring aspects of everyday life, the decision to feature a reality television show is a natural fit, especially given Donna’s love of the genre because of the inherent drama. Posing as a married couple complete with hilariously over-the-top and awkwardly forced shows and nicknames of affection, the Doctor and Donna have successfully applied to be featured on an episode Haunted Makeovers. However, rather than taking the trusted approach of the Doctor disproving any semblance of supernatural activity in front of a firm believer, ‘No Place’ instead presents the host Justin as the skeptic with his guests the ones assuring him that the disturbing and dangerous occurrences around them are genuine. From years of experience on the show, Justin knows all too well that broken heating systems and concealed drafts are the most likely culprits of what can’t easily be explained, and while others have been keen to call in an exorcist under his watch, he understands that a competent electrician is altogether more useful. Given the very small cast and history of this community centre, it’s no surprise that Jason has a deeper connection of which he is not aware, but the journey that Joel Fry takes Jason on as he slowly comes to accept that the truth around him is not simply due to paranoia and the elaborate plan of the Doctor looking to make a name for himself on his programme is wonderfully nuanced and believably laden in a range of emotions.

Horror as a genre is an incredibly difficult one to successfully pull off in the audio medium, but the claustrophobic environment and Howard Carter’s stunning sound design bring a heightening tension and sense of dread to life spectacularly. Without just relying on unexpected stings, the subtleties of dripping water, tearing wallpaper, old recordings and so much more are expertly included in a manner that still allows the characters themselves who take centre stage as they notice and react to these inexplicable events. Fascinatingly, this is a story that again touches upon the theme that sometimes the Doctor goes too far and verges on cruelty as it becomes clear that he is biding his time while putting others in danger. It’s perhaps not a surprise that Sylvia takes a more condescending role of the Doctor from the start given the dangerous lifestyle he leads and has brought her daughter into, but the fact that Donna agrees with her is a profoundly resonant development that adds an extra layer to this tale. Still, she is an immensely caring woman who still believes that the world can be put right with a cup of tea, and Jaqueline King recaptures the role perfectly here. With Bernard Cribbins giving an equally enthralling performance that channels Wilf’s immense empathy and steadfast belief in the Doctor that is spotlighted by a beautiful sentiment about the Doctor being like fire and what stands between humanity and the danger of the stars, the Nobles become essential listening and expertly serve as a backdrop for Donna’s own unique thoughts and actions.

David Tennant gives a much more sombre take on his incarnation that so frequently revels in exuberance, and the range he has already been able to showcase in the early stages of this ongoing series is truly impressive. Catherine Tate, whose return after ‘The Runaway Bride’ allowed Donna an immense opportunity for growth as she realised that the world is not as boring as Justin still believes, likewise excels here with a sense of determination and empathy that taps into her character’s own past. While it is true that the resolution is quite rushed and over in a flash, the buildup to the final momentous resolution that ties together the contents of a hidden room with all of the strange occurrences is absolutely brilliant and highlights again how varied and successful the contents of The Tenth Doctor Adventures can be.

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