Singularity

May 5, 2016

Released November 2005

Russia, a country with such importance in world history and its own rich culture, has largely been ignored in the world of Doctor Who and its Earth-based tales. ‘Singularity’ sets to rectify that with an intense story set in twenty-first century Moscow that focuses on an organization with allies who promise the next evolution of humanity, a step the Doctor knows humanity should not be taking.

The foundation of ‘Singularity’ is classic Doctor Who at its finest as the Fifth Doctor and Turlough arrive to figure out the truth behind the Somnos Foundation’s enticing innocent people to help them in their work towards that next evolution. The villains’ aim of achieving singularity through fusing all of humanity into one mind is interesting enough, though the Doctor is quick to point out that by succeeding they will create a paradox and destroy the future. In fact, the one weakness of the script is that it does skirt the presence of paradoxes, the closest it gets to confronting them being when Turlough gives a half-hearted explanation about ripples affecting more and more when Lena decides to asve her own mother from her predetermined fate.

Turlough has been one of the few companions that hasn’t benefitted too much from Big Finish, partly because of his minimal involvement but also because the scripts that he has been involved with have failed to capture what made the character so unique. Here, however, Turlough is very much the sensible coward that he was always meant to be, putting himself first but showing a braver side when absolutely required. Thus, when the story takes a gloriously unexpected turn and Turlough ends up on the planet Ember at the end of time, he seeks to organize a resistance movement and even puts his life on the line since it is his only chance of surviving. This is a great contrast to earlier in the story when Lena attempts to avert her own mother’s death in the past as Turlough sits back casually and does little to stop her. It’s a nice progression for Turlough to take even if the circumstances are so extreme, and it gives credence to the conscientious and courageous actions he takes in ‘Planet of Fire.’

Writer James Swallow does an excellent job capturing the relationship between the Doctor and Turlough as well, the Doctor enthusiastically throwing himself into the local events and searching for a temporal rift while Turlough is quick to reply with his trademark cynicism and barbed wit. Peter Davison is masterful in this performance, giving his Doctor a bit more of an assertive edge as he unapologetically takes control of events, rescuing Lena from a trailing guard and disparaging Somnos’ assertions about Earth’s future and machine men. This is a Doctor that is unafraid to use every means at his disposal to solve the problem, including traveling to the past to understand what occurred when Qel arrived. In fact, Qel and Seo continue to underestimate the Doctor here because, though they are perfectly aware of who he is, they treat him as a more passive incarnation as less of a threat accordingly. Each scene is played very well, but the ending as the Doctor says goodbye to Seo as Ember meets its end alongside the universe, refusing to save her because of his responsibility, is chillingly brilliant.

The proactive Doctor who effectively disposes of Qel and Seo by breaking the psi-gate and returning everyone to their proper bodies meshes wonderfully with the exceptionally strong supporting cast. Eve Polycarpou as Qel and Maitland Chandler as Seo are brilliantly immoral and intelligent and portray an intriguing relationship as allies who utterly despise each other. This is a rare release where there is not one missed beat by any performer, and the employing of Russians for many of the Russian parts goes a long way in enhancing the realism of the story.

‘Singularity’ may not hold up to much scrutiny if its plot is dissected, and there is the odd scene of forced exposition with Turlough, but the sublime characterization of each of the individuals involved comes together to create one of the most memorable releases in Big Finish’s recent output, refreshingly giving Turlough another chance in the spotlight in the process.

Wrap Up

Singularity

Pros

  • + Peter Davison wonderful as a more proactive and assertive Fifth Doctor
  • + Turlough more in line with his televised performances and evevnts here help to better explain future actions
  • + Wonderful characterization throughout and not a bad performance to be had

Cons

  • - The overall plot won't hold up to much scrutiny as the idea of paradoxes and their consequences are mostly avoided

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