State of Bliss

Posted in Audio by - August 14, 2019
State of Bliss

Released August 2019

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

Following two box sets in the Ravenous saga and another that reunited the Eighth Doctor and Lucie Miller once more in a series of missing stories, Big Finish now returns to the depths of the Time War with the Doctor closer than ever to dropping his name and taking up the mantle of warrior within the audio medium, opening Time War Volume Three with Matt Fitton’s ‘State of Bliss.’

Rakhee Thakrar has made an instant impact as the Doctor’s latest companion, Bliss, an orphan of the Time War who has lost everything she ever knew. Bliss is passionate, brave, and at times headstrong, making her a perfect match for the Eighth Doctor who is equally passionate but finds himself increasingly struggling to retain his own sense of ideals and morals amidst the darkening depths into which his friends and foes alike continue to descend. However, just as reality itself has the ability to warp and change as the Time Lords and Daleks continue their relentless battle with no regard for collateral damage, Bliss herself is a character whose very foundation is an enigma because of the instability around her timeline, and Thakrar gives arguably her most profound performance yet as Bliss must confront her past and the many potential paths her life could have taken in a multiverse of possibilities, one in which the Doctor is hauntingly interwoven as anyone but himself.

Naturally, Bliss is a difficult character to offer meaningful backstory to, making the prospect of Bliss trying to remember what her life was like before meeting the Doctor altogether more thrilling. Indeed, just witnessing the very normal interactions of young students steeped in ambition, excitement, nervousness, friendship, and even love resonates all the more profoundly given what Bliss would come to endure, and Anjli Mohindra and John Scougall as Calla and Ryall, respectively, help to quickly make this group of peers a believable entity that provides something of a steadying force as Bliss confronts multiple realities and certain aspects and occurrences she is certain are not true.

It’s easy to forget with the forces of Gallifrey and Skaro locked in battle that normal individuals would naturally attempt to capitalize on and exploit the technology, phenomena, and debris left in their wake, and so Professor Deepa’s harnessing of a quantum abnormality and her resulting ability to gaze into and interact with the multiverse is both refreshing from an antagonistic standpoint and immensely terrifying from a plot perspective. Nina Wadia adds an authoritative and egotistical essence to Deepa who wears her ambition proudly on her sleeves, and the extent to which she has focused on Bliss to attain her ultimate goals is staggering, providing Bliss with just one of many foundational shocks as the voices of her past continue to take on a terrifying new visage. With the very future at stake and the re-emergence of parasitic insectiborgs a very tangible threat in the present amidst the unfamiliar voices of familiarity, the truths among reality, perception, and possibility all merge to create an engrossing tale that highlights just how determined Bliss is to find answers and help others even when all hope appears lost.

While it remains to be seen if these events and revelations will have a larger impact on The Time War saga as a whole, it provides a fascinating re-entry point to this series that bravely delves into Bliss’s psyche and vaunted past to make her a much more defined character despite the lack of definition and certainty around her. Implicitly tying the mystery of her past into this trap and the tremendous danger of reality and knowledge quite literally changing in an instant that the Doctor and Bliss must confront works brilliantly, and although so much of Bliss’s past must necessarily remain unexplored, what is offered is a sobering reminder of what damage the Time War can do both on a personal and universal level. With the direction and sound design only further enhancing the tension, uncertainty, and danger, ‘State of Bliss’ takes a step away from the main action of the war and poignantly shows the less explored consequences of war on those who are not directly involved.

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