One for All

Posted in Audio by - September 05, 2021
One for All

Released September 2021

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

When the Eleven, a renegade Time Lord suffering from regenerative dissonance that causes him to retain the consciousnesses of his previous incarnations, was first introduced, the Seventh Doctor had emerged victorious from an unseen adventure and incarcerated his foe. Thus, while the Eleven and his previous and subsequent selves have primarily crossed paths with the Eighth Doctor for Big Finish, it was clear that there were plenty of earlier stories for Big Finish to exploit. With the aptly-titled box set The Eleven, the Sixth Doctor and Constance cross paths with the criminal Time Lord and his new companion as he makes his greatest play for power yet.

The very notion of the Eleven, of course, is one of the more brilliant ideas in Doctor Who lore, and while there is no doubting the genius and audacity that fuels this renegade’s many plans, each subsequent appearance is tasked with doing something novel with the character that presents him as more than simply a criminal that gives voice to multiple personalities. With ‘One for All,’ Lizzie Hopley does just that on a world where individuals naturally possess two personas and where those with only one consciousness are treated as inferior beings and labelled as half-lifes. That setting by itself would provide ample fodder for a man housing eleven personas, but the addition of this society’s ability to perform what amounts to cosmetic surgery on any individual personality opens a wealth of storytelling potential, especially once the Eleven’s wife who is less than enamoured with specific aspects of her husband’s past is introduced. With the advent of cloning, the Eleven is poised to expand his power as never before, and severing personalities to give new life to his previous selves is an audacious plan that squarely calls into question just how prior incarnations keep their subsequent selves balanced and in check. In particular, the One is presented as something of a tempering force for the more severe extremes that certain of the Eleven’s previous selves could otherwise reach, and the fear of those unchecked forces out in the universe and the explosiveness that follows in their wake is built up and presented extremely effectively.

Of course, in a story that toys with the ideas of identity and self, it should come as no surprise that the woman the Eleven has chosen as his wife- a woman who inspires feelings other than love in some of previous selves- holds many secrets herself. And while it’s fitting that she holds a dangerous edge that at times seems even more extreme than her husband’s, her plans for herself that are so diametrically opposed to the Eleven’s hopes for severing are immensely intriguing and certainly highlight just how far this woman is prepared to go to get what she wants, whatever the consequences may be. Mark Bonnar is, as always, utterly superb as he brings the essence of so many characters within the Eleven to life with seeming ease, but his real-life partner Lucy Gaskell is equally impressive as the dangerous Miskavell, and the two together present a monumental and uniquely dynamic threat seething with interpersonal drama that is unquestionably one of the most energetic and captivating dangers the Doctor has encountered in any of his own incarnations.

‘One for All’ is a story tasked with introducing the Eleven to listeners unfamiliar with the Eighth Doctor’s adventures as well as Constance Clarke to listeners unfamiliar with the Sixth Doctor’s adventures, and while Constance doesn’t fare quite as well as the Eleven in terms of development, she is nonetheless presented as an incredibly strong and capable companion whose experiences with the Doctor have made her remarkably adept at understanding and adapting to anything before her. Similarly, the Doctor is incredibly self-assured throughout even as he has to piece together the scope of the Eleven’s plan and constantly adjust and readjust to the treacherous pathway his foe has envisioned, and although it is a bit disappointing that the resolution relies on a feature of the TARDIS never seen before, this game of Time Lord chess as the Eleven ventures into unknown territory is portrayed well and certainly gives a sense of personal history between these two foes. Buoyed by the tremendous chemistry between Colin Baker and Miranda Raison and two incredibly dynamic supporting characters, ‘One for All’ has a tremendous amount of pieces to introduce and juggle, and for the most part it succeeds remarkably well while leaving plenty of plot threads for the ensuing stories in this set to pick up and develop.

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