Planet of the End

Posted in Audio by - August 15, 2021
Planet of the End

Released August 2021

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

The Ninth Doctor’s tenure on television was defined in part by his propensity for arriving and staying on Earth, a fact that helped to define the haunted Time Lord for the audience through familiar settings and ideas while introducing the splendours and dangers of the universe at large. However, as Respond to All Calls draws to a close in Timothy X Atack’s ‘Planet of the End,’ the Doctor comes to a mausoleum world with intentions of cleaning up extraneous and incorrect information in its records but stumbles upon the last resting place of a race that is too dangerous to exist and that has its collective eyes set on the Doctor as its means of returning to the universe.

Each story in Respond to All Calls has done exceedingly well with introducing and defining complex supporting characters to create a rich landscape for the Doctor to walk through, but the artificial intelligence he names Fred is possibly the most intriguing. On a world with no life and no visitors, Fred has had to developed something of a personality and quickly finds itself annoyed by the Doctor’s pedantic nature while they go through records. With the Doctor’s arrival triggering warnings from Sacristan Hinge about his alleged criminal acts in the past, the Doctor is left only with an explanation of extenuating circumstances for his defense, and Fred is quickly introduced to the complexities of real-world actions and decisions when a far greater evil threatens to revive itself. Portraying an artificial intelligence that is experiencing something of a birth of consciousness and morality is surely no easy task, but Margaret Clunie gives an incredibly nuanced performance that makes Fred’s journey of enlightenment palpable and believable, and the easy chemistry she shares with Christopher Eccleston as Fred and the Doctor embark on the most unexpected and lengthy undertaking vividly underscores the profound effect the Doctor can have on anyone and everyone he meets while inspiring their very best.

For better or worse, the Doctor is often defined by the evil he is able to address or vanquish at any given time, and although the Incorporation has perhaps the most generic and uninspiring title, this race quickly proves itself to be a formidable one. Granted, the Doctor needing to explain the Incorporation’s previous misdeeds fueled by profit and greed is hardly the most visceral introduction, but the immediacy of those types of actions in the modern world is a tangible threat that resonates without going into any great economic detail. Instead, it’s the lengths that the Incorporation is willing to go to in order to achieve a return to the universe that is so successful, and holding prisoner a tortured Doctor on the verge of regeneration for decades is the type of menace that the series rarely presents. Again, it doesn’t completely make sense why the Incorporation would accept fixed instalments of life energy from the Doctor given how dangerous and cunning its members know him to be, especially as the two sides spar about the benefits that time allows in finding and exploiting weaknesses, but the stunning visual of a Doctor frozen in time for so long is brilliantly effective and certainly manages to create a sense of despondency and genuine danger. Jan Francis and Nick Fletcher give immense performances as the voices of the Incorporation, and this ages-old threat long thought extinct quickly establishes itself as an exciting one that would certainly be welcome to appear again.

Of the three stories in this set, ‘Planet of the End’ allows Christopher Eccleston the most emotional range to explore, and he taps into hope, hopelessness, anger, pride, and excitement with ease to bring this tumultuous adventure to life. It’s clear that Atack perfectly understands the incredible abilities and nuance of the Ninth Doctor, and this is yet another strong example of just how successfully this incarnation can translate to the audio medium. The binary-fueled escape is perhaps one of the more far-fetched explanations offered despite the small scale, but it ends up being another great example of the camaraderie that quickly forms between the Doctor and Fred that culminates in the most fitting way possible. There are certainly many elements from this story that could appear in future adventures as well, but ‘Planet of the End’ introduces and details an incredible amount of plot elements to develop a truly satisfying conclusion to this set that has shown the very best of the Ninth Doctor.

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