Precious Annihilation

Posted in Audio by - November 27, 2020
Precious Annihilation

Released November 2020

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

Following an intriguing reunion between the Tenth Doctor and River Song that highlighted the versatility that having two distinct time travelers with such a uniquely complex burgeoning relationship allows, Lizzie Hopley looks to build upon the momentum established in ‘Expiry Dating’ with ‘Precious Annihilation.’ When jewels become deadly in 1912 London and both show up to investigate, a mystery filled with jealousy and love takes them centuries into the past.

Of course, River Song is the very personification of the twisting and time-jumping Steven Moffat era as a whole, and so it’s no surprise that this set of stories has thus far refused to stick to any one setting for its tales. However, whereas the preceding tale unfolded at a breakneck pace through a series of letters and vignettes, ‘Precious Annihilation’ takes the time to delve more into its characters and locales as the Doctor and River attempt to uncover the truth behind these dangerous jewels and the jeweler who appears to be responsible for them. Unfortunately, there aren’t too many directions that the plot can ultimately take, and since River quite early on intimates who the genuine culprit may be, the slower pacing is a bit more intrusive as a result. The jewels have the admittedly fascinating ability to alter a single cell or an entire planet depending on the user, but as the alien component becomes known and the desire to protect one race from the potential threats of others is uncovered, everything unfolds in a fairly linear and expected fashion that culminates with a bit of persuasion to do the right thing that has been seen countless times before. Still, Barnaby Kay gives a memorable performance as a man so devoted to his craft and wife, and Anjli Mohindra brings a suitably fearful but self-righteous ambiguity to life in an engaging fashion to help the narrative flow as its traverses the open seas on a ship with a superstitious crew on the verge of mutiny, through the streets of London, and even aboard an alien ship.

Once again, though, it’s the characterization of the leads where this story excels most, and the strengths and weaknesses of both the Doctor and River are on full display as they bring their own emotions and morality to this mystery and the growing danger it entails. Yet just as the preceding story seemed intent on bringing the Tenth Doctor closer to the man that the Eleventh Doctor would be in River’s eye, the many allusions to the future and suggestions of the Doctor’s own feelings with little workup seem somewhat unearned with little purpose other than to appease fans. Unfortunately, by doing so some of the mystery that River would come to represent in the Eleventh Doctor era becomes redundant since so much is explicitly implied here, something that was always going to be a danger when bringing together once again these two characters who would come to mean so much to each other. That’s not to say that certain feelings and thoughts should be ignored completely, but there is little subtlety at any point, and a trusted disclaimer of spoilers does little to quell that sense of the inevitable.

David Tennant and Alex Kingston continue to be an unsurprisingly standout pairing who can banter with the best of them, but ‘Precious Annihilation’ doesn’t quite manage to live up to its evocative title as its fairly predictable storyline that repeatedly all too bluntly hints at the pair’s time together reaches its expected conclusion. Like every release in this range, the acting, direction, and sound design are superb, but there is still an undeniable sense that this duo could be fronting something much more deep and profound.

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