Red

Posted in Audio by - May 24, 2016
Red

Released August 2006

Humans have a near infinite potential for both evil and good, and stories dealing with the physical removal of violence from society in all of its many forms are almost too numerous to count. Doctor Who has dabbled with this concept as well in its long history, but ‘Red’ puts an intriguing spin on a classic formula and features some truly chilling performances along the way, led deftly by Sylvester McCoy.

‘Red’ is very much a story about a split society, and while the story itself doesn’t allow quite enough time to thoroughly flesh out the setting and the two classes, it still sets the scene quite well. The upper class citizens live in the Needle, a living environment that caters to its citizens’ every whim. In return, they agree to be chipped with an implant that controls their emotions and keeps any thought of anger from forming as well as deleting any lingering memory of that potential action. The computer known as Whitenoise regulates the system, and the citizens accept that the control over them is a good alternative to living life in the uncontrolled and potentially dangerous city outside of the Needle. Computer oversight with no human intervention, of course, is fraught with the potential for disaster and for unfortunate events to be missed and go unpunished, but as the Doctor finds himself chipped against his will and somehow sharing a connection with a murderer who uses other chipped people as his weapons, emotions start to fly.

Many of the concepts in this story have unsurprisingly shown up in other stories in various mediums, and while all of the concepts flow together quite well, little is done to truly make them something totally unique. Split societies, computer oversight, and removal of violence fit the environment and the story perfectly, but there are still many lingering questions after the story including why the Needle, the chipping, and Whitenoise were even brought into existence in the first place. Much more effective, however, is the concept of the Doctor feeling the murderer’s rage as his own and even the society’s suppressed anger manifesting itself.

Fortunately, the actors and performances within ‘Red’ elevate the story to something quite satisfying overall. Peter Ray’s Druan and Denise Hoey’s Nuane are fascinating as Needle citizens who introudce Mel to the drug ‘Slow’ and urge Mel to hurt them so they can feel something. Likewise, Sean Oliver’s Chief Blue is great as Whitehouse’s operator in a rare case where someone in power is not megalomaniacally seeking more power and control. As Whitenoise, John Stahl nails the measured cadence of a computer voice, and the script expertly shows a computer working exactly as initially programmed as it gains control. Bonnie Langford is superb as Mel once again, this time displaying an unabashed disgust for the society and its suppressed emotions as she tries her best to control hers. Still, it’s McCoy himself who steals the show, masterfully showing how violent the Doctor could become if he so chose as he struggles with the competing Red-induced urge to commit violence and his centuries of contempt for it.

Having the ability to choose not do something or to experience something is a fascinating concept in a story filled with fascinating concepts, and it lends an air of uniqueness to a release that otherwise does little to set its core ideas apart from other similar stories. Fortunately, the strong post-production work and the stellar performances- especially by an utterly conflicted Doctor- truly help to make ‘Red’ a much more memorable release.

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