Stop the Clock

Posted in Audio by - December 31, 2018
Stop the Clock

Released March 2017

As the first audio saga designed to be comprised of sixteen stories, as opposed to Dark Eyes which transformed into sixteen following initial plans for four, Doom Coalition has been a fascinating experience that has made the most of its standalone tales to buoy an engaging overlying plot fronted by a succession of uniquely powerful villains. Yet with so many plot threads still in play after fifteen parts with only an hour for the Doctor and his friends to save eternity from Padrac’s scheme, John Dorney looks to provide a satisfactory conclusion that balances monumental scale with intimate character exploration in the concluding ‘Stop the Clock.’

One thing Doom Coalition as a whole has not been afraid of is developing the darker recesses of Time Lord society, and the revelation that both Padrac and the Eleven at one point belonged to a secret cabal comprised of the intellectual elite that eliminates any threat to Gallifrey that the Matrix predicted gives context to how Padrac’s vision has become so distorted given the monumental conflict he has since foreseen. This cabal’s response has always been proportional to the threat, and with his world and people doomed in every timeline except that in which Gallifrey alone remains, Padrac now has plans to use the Sonomancer within a resonance engine at the precise moment that all celestial bodies are in perfect alignment to amplify the resonance to the point of total destruction. It’s an audacious plan to be sure, but it’s narratively more effective than most grandiose plans because it so directly references Caleera’s introductory situation in ‘Scenes from Her Life’ and ties so nicely into Padrac’s manipulations of Caleera that have traversed so much of her life.

This isn’t so much a fault of any singular story- this one in particular- so much as the manner in which this series developed with essentially one new villain being introduced per box set, but the intense focus on one character in each set means that there has been very little time for the actual plan and then clues for its means of failure to be developed, especially with the first story of this set standalone and the third only tangentially related. Because of the limited time available with the Doom Coalition in full, then, there has been little time to actually develop the relationships that exist between these villains beyond simple hints at Padrac using Caleera’s unrequited feelings for him to his advantage and the Eleven perhaps being surplus to requirements. Thus, while it’s not surprising that both of these elements come into play once more, it is a bit odd that the plot of sixteen stories relies on a revelation that takes just a few seconds for Caleera to discover to come unraveled. It’s an interesting thought that it’s the villainous team itself that proves to be its own undoing with lies and secrets forming the foundation of Padrac’s plan, but it’s also a shame that Caleera since joining with Padrac after her own featured time in the second box set has been written so flatly as a much more generic female character with stereotypical weaknesses.

Although it’s also crushingly inevitable that the Eleven will find himself ostracised by Padrac, ‘Stop the Clock’ represents Mark Bonnar’s best performance as the Eleven since that character’s own sterling introduction. Far too often in this series he has been reduced to snarling, raving lunatic, but here he is again able to prove just how incredibly dangerous and conniving he is when both saving himself and furthering Padrac’s plans on many fronts, and Bonnar brings that spite and menace to the forefront pitch perfectly. It’s not every villain who can single-handedly foil the Doctor’s plans, but that’s exactly the case here when he gets the Doctor to drop his psychic cloak that allowed him to get so close to Padrac while impersonating the Eleven, in essence ruining the hope of putting Gallifrey at risk and forcing Caleera to save this planet and thus Padrac. Taking nothing away from the masterclass in villainy the Eleven represents here, the only narrative fault is that his own mesmeric influence is used so effectively on a character new to this story rather than an established one that could have allowed more of an emotional connection.

While it’s undoubtedly true that the main plot of Doom Coalition with Padrac at its head could have been told over one exhilarating box set rather than prolonged over four, ‘Stop the Clock’ is remarkably adept at giving all of its characters a strong voice and sufficient work to do at various points. Thus, while the Doctor is somewhat sidelined after Caleera finds out the truth, Emma Cunniffe excels all the more when her character is set free of these deceptions and takes matters into her own hands. And while Liv likewise achieves her furtive but destructive task quite adroitly, it’s Helen and her burning desire to matter that resonates most profoundly with another callback to her earlier adventures proving crucial to the resolution. Ending this story that has escalated in scope so profoundly and so quickly over the past few stories was always going to be a difficult task, especially given the expanded roster of characters to balance, and although the notion of a race against time that the title suggests is dropped relatively quickly as the story progresses, this is a well-directed and  thrilling adventure filled with strong performances that ties up its plot threads logically and cohesively while providing a thrilling twist connection to ‘The Red Lady’ and leaving an intriguing new avenue for future stories to explore.

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