Project: Destiny

Posted in Audio by - October 01, 2016
Project: Destiny

Released September 2010

Big Finish occasionally plays the long game with its plots and storylines, and this is perhaps best exemplified with the story and consequences of the Forge and Nimrod. In 2003’s ‘Project: Lazarus,’ Cassie Schofield died despite the best intentions of the Sixth Doctor and Evelyn Smythe. 2004’s ‘The Harvest’ saw 2021 nurse Thomas Hector Schofield (Hex) join the Seventh Doctor and Ace aboard the TARDIS. 2005’s ‘Thicker Than Water’ featured a brief scene in which the Seventh Doctor crossed his own timeline to inform Evelyn that Hex was Cassie’s son and that not all hope was lost. Yet with so many plot threats left lingering, writers Cavan Scott and Mark Wright reunite for ‘Project: Destiny,’ providing satisfactory answers while tying up the many loose ends of the Seventh Doctor’s audio era in a somewhat mixed overall release.

Unfortunately, because of the inherent tension in this episode as truths come to light, the story does not play to the strengths of Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred, instead relying on emotional hysterics to advance the plot. McCoy does exceedingly well in showing a deep compassion for Hex, but it’s difficult to see the Doctor as any sort of hero here as his hesitance to speak with Hex earlier has ugly ramifications and as both his friends and enemy alike shred his character to pieces. At the same time, Ace has always proven a bit of an enigma for Big Finish, some productions writing her as an angsty and volatile character and some as a more experienced and emotionally refined one, and unfortunately ‘Project: Destiny’ chooses the former approach which actually ends up drowning out some of the needed emotion in the darker scenes. Without explanation, the Ace here is radically disparate to the one with the more adult teacher-student relationship she had developed with Hex in earlier stories.

However, this is very much a story about Philip Olivier’s Hex, and understandably the character pauses to reconsider his relationship with the Doctor once the truth about his mother becomes known. Unfortunately, rather than take advantage of Olivier’s considerable talents, the script asks him to perform a complete turnaround, treating the Doctor and Ace as mortal enemies. Without dealing with the emotional repercussions of Hex deciding to leave in this story, there’s no anchor to the sudden shift in his loyalties and his questionable decision to resurrect his mother and believe Nimrod. Instead of providing an incredibly emotional tour de force for Olivier, ‘Project: Destiny’ instead becomes an unsuccessful and frankly unbelievable ending for such an incredible audio companion.

In fact, the only character who really shines in this story is Nimrod himself, now going by Sir William Abberton. Stephen Chance calmly changes the intonations of his voice to suit every situation, and Nimrod’s incredible intelligence backs up his manipulative malevolence wonderfully. His discovery of just how much the Doctor has kept from Hex is vital, but his ability to use that knowledge to turn Hex against the Doctor quite easily speaks volumes. So while the story and climactic finish of the Forge storyline may falter around him, ‘Project: Destiny’ does at least offer a strong departure for this unique original villain.

In the end, ‘Project: Destiny’ is the weakest link of the trilogy. Despite a genuinely good score and strong core concept for the story, the overblown performances from everyone significantly hampers the overall production. Whereas the first story was an action showcase and the second featured a very emotional Evelyn, the ultimate fallout of the Cassie/Hex revelation is muddled at best, worsened all the more since the emotional fallout is reserved for an upcoming release. The Forge storyline’s conclusion offered so much potential, but this is regrettably not the conclusion it deserved.

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