The Blazing Hour

Posted in Audio by - February 11, 2021
The Blazing Hour

Released February 2021

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

In a fitting piece of symmetry to mirror Big Finish’s second monthly adventure ‘Phantasmagoria’ that released in October 1999, James Kettle’s ‘The Blazing Hour’ reunites leads Peter Davison and Mark Strickson in the range’s penultimate and remarkable 274th release. When the TARDIS brings the Doctor and Turlough to a high-tech scientific establishment responsible for generating the vast amounts of power humanity needs to traverse galaxies in the far future, they soon find a devastating secret behind the experiments on Testament and the same shortcomings of humanity that have so often plagued the Doctor’s investigations throughout all of time and space.

Both in fiction and nonfiction, countless stories have featured an imminent and destructive threat, and ‘The Blazing Hour’ perfectly taps into that genre with a unique Doctor Who twist that employs a very clever incorporation of the famed Blinovitch Limitation Effect. Unfortunately, while the soundscape does an admirable job of presenting this world on the verge of total collapse as the Doctor considers taking an extreme action that is almost unconscionable while suffering from the anguish of apparently losing another companion, the script never quite manages to imbue a true sense of tension to these affairs. To be sure, the Doctor shows an impressive amount of optimism, determination, and despair as he continues to find increasingly impressive and consequential solutions to the impending disaster at hand, but the traditional roadblocks of bureaucratic and political tediousness as well as of self-serving ideals artificially slow the pacing down to the point of frustratingly treading the same ground over and over again. This is, of course, a biting indictment of human society as a whole and how existential threats are being tackled in modern times, but the extreme dichotomy when pitted against only one other voice of reason amidst such a profound and immediate threat- whether one that can be perceived or not- serves as a detriment to the story as a whole and at times strains credulity no matter how sadly relatable it may be.

With so much dialogue needed to keep the plot more or less in one place as multiple people throw up multiple variations of the same roadblock, there surprisingly isn’t much room for the guest cast to truly shine. Everyone is serviceable with what is provided, but the parade of figures adding to the tedium unfortunately becomes little more defined than the plot devices they are intended to be to fill time. Even the inclusion of Turlough who always has so much to offer any script as a character given his layered motivations amounts to little extra for this particular tale. Strickson is superb as always, but despite the unique situation an injury puts Turlough in, he is given little that is especially memorable to do. Having the two leads separated for the vast majority of the production, although a technique used countless times before to more fully develop multiple facets of a situation, also doesn’t manage to meaningfully achieve its purpose and instead draws attention to the missing interactions between the two charismatic leads who are so rarely featured exclusively together.

‘The Blazing Hour’ is based upon an incredibly evocative and elegant threat and manages to successfully incorporate an intriguing element of a base under siege, but it spends far too much time simply spinning its wheels without actually going forward and in many instances feels like it is actively trying to simply meet its running time by finding new ways to cover what is essentially the same ground. The technical aspects of this production come together well to bring to life this dangerous environment, and Peter Davison gives a remarkably ranged performance as the script necessitates, but overall it fails to live up to its potential and can’t quite close out the Fifth Doctor’s monthly adventures on the high note that might have been.

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