Static

Posted in Audio by - December 21, 2017
Static

Released December 2017
SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

Doctor Who has a long and rich history filled with tales of children watching the daring heroism on screen from behind the sofa, and yet only a very few stories- notably in the mid 1970s- have explicitly set out to be scary or to otherwise amplify a menacing and forbidding environment into something tangibly frightening. When the Doctor, Flip, and Constance arrive at an isolated caravan park in northern England near a stone circle once used for human sacrifice and an abandoned World War II RAF research station shrouded in secrecy, ‘Static’ quickly cements itself on the even shorter list of audio adventures to achieve this feat and uses its palpable atmosphere of isolation and terror to tell a foreboding and poignant tale that asks very tough questions of the characters along the way.

‘Static’ does eventually tread into more overt science fiction territory, but it wisely takes it time to bring out that element to instead focus on the very personal and mysterious events occurring at Abbey Marston. Forbidden to use any sort of technological or communication equipment by the overbearing manager, Percy Till, the young Andy and Joanna have arrived at the caravan site to get away from it all as they try to communicate and understand each other’s thoughts and emotions a year following the tragic drowning of Joanna’s sister. Indeed, Andy provides the demonstrative impetus for the beginning of the story as his research into the area has led him to believe that he can right that terrible wrong, miscalculating the emotional ramifications of his actions in the process. But when the Doctor arrives and is enigmatically greeted by Percy who knows much more than he will let on before the group discovers a dead body in the roots of a nearby tree, it’s clear that the area holds far greater secrets than Andy could have ever imagined.

The discovery of the sacrificial site and the accompanying tales of monks abandoning their monastery so long ago because of their dead companions so quickly returning to life expertly amplify the tense ambience of ‘Static,’ and the ability of Doctor Who to traverse time and tackle this emotional and moral quandary from two angles as the Doctor and Constance travel back to World War II is dramatically satisfying in every respect. Though the Doctor’s time travel does signify the end of the intense terror that so pervades the first half of the story, the true nature of the RAF experiments on the sites are appalling in their own right and speak to just how far one side will tread into ethically ambiguous territory at best to achieve victory, providing a great message without every becoming too overbearing with its delivery.

The performances in ‘Static’ are uniformly excellent, and Colin Baker is tremendous with the required gravitas as the intentions of first the military and then the Static consciousness become known, displaying a brave resolve to ensure the safety of those around him and to keep principles and morality in focus as the true scope of the power of Abbey Marston becomes known. Since the start, this trilogy of Sixth Doctor releases has also solidified the incredible relationship between Flip and Constance, and that is wonderfully brought to the forefront throughout here but especially once Constance meets a fiery death in the past that Flip heartbreakingly realizes once she answers the unendingly rining telephone. Though Constance seemingly remains herself once the Static employ the technology once more but then succumb to the might of a Time Lord, this is assuredly an action that will have long-lasting consequences going forward and should ensure this story’s lasting legacy in more ways than one. Both Lisa Greenwood and Miranda Raison give powerful performances from beginning to end and have already created one of the great companion duos in Doctor Who history. Scott Chambers and Pippa Nixon likewise share a great chemistry as Andy and Joanna, and Jo Woodcock as the troubled Susannah certainly deserves mention, but it really is David Graham as Percy who stands out with an unnervingly excellent take on the same integral character whose knowledge is kept so secret in the present some thirty years after his own personal tragedy.

The direction takes full advantage of the bleak and lonely countryside of the script and crafts an immensely atmospheric tale that revels in a sense of loneliness and uneasy tension that the wonderful sound design and score only further underscore. With a harrowing but unobtrusive look at morality and death that only serves to further its grim and sometimes-horrific narrative, ‘Static’ is a superb science fiction tale that exemplifies the best of the franchise and the genre, ending 2017 on an fantastic high for this robust TARDIS trio.

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