The Child

Posted in Audio by - June 17, 2019
The Child

Released December 2012

Intended to begin a new trilogy in which Leela’s soul lives on beyond her death in ‘The Time Vampire’ like the Sevateem tribe believes, Nigel Fairs in ‘The Child’ presents Leela’s rebirth as the young Emily while Leela remains an imaginary friend regaling her with tales about a great wizard and accompanying warrior. Sharing narration duties, Louise Jameson and Anna Hawkes thus reveal the story of a cold, grey world ruled by a Glass Angel who is holding the wizard captive and of the peculiar group that becomes the wizard’s only hope.

Told in a fashion that combines the traditional stylings of The Companion Chronicles and a fairy tale so as to reflect the childhood stage of this new life entwined with the vast experiences of the old, ‘The Child’ is brimming with strong visuals highlighted by the Map of Life, a work of art so vast it covers an entire continent. Featuring two characters of such different experiences, it also allows for a unique interplay that both celebrates the more intriguing parts of the tale while skipping over portions some may find more tedious.  That Leela is able to offer a more grounded and realistic take on Emily’s more fantastic thoughts and ideas only makes this setup more effective, and although the plot itself is somewhat laborious and disjointed at times as callbacks to the Doctor’s previous selves are made and Alice in Wonderland obliquely features, the scientific explanations offered do at least attempt to base this fantasy that features so little of the Doctor in a more traditional Doctor Who context.

Fairs takes control of every aspect of this production, but sadly the actual plot can’t quite match the direction, music, and sound design. The first episode, in particular, seems more like a random assortment of ideas thrown together rather than a coherent narrative, and while the pacing and intrigue substantially increase in the second, the disparate tones between the two likewise detracts from the overall whole and what could have been. As the story begins to reach its climax and conclusion, it becomes quite clear that many of the ideas will not be satisfactorily resolved, and given that Emily’s story would appear to be a one-off as Leela’s new life progresses in a trilogy that as of yet has not manifested, this creates something of an empty experience that streamlining the science fiction and fantasy elements may have helped to allay.

Yet while Fairs can’t quite bring all of his plot elements together in this tale of art and beauty, however, there is no faulting his implicit understanding and wonderful handling of Leela as a character. Paired with Jameson’s incredible power and nuance, Leela’s naivete and capacity to learn and develop are on fine display, and the intelligence and tempered voice of reason that complement her own excitement alongside Emily’s is brilliantly intertwined to keep the story grounded in a greater sense of realism. Less successful taken on their own, however, is the hinting at Emily’s more aristocratic surroundings and childhood with the expectations thrust upon her if only because there is so little time for these to actually develop amidst everything else. Anna Hawkes gives a suitably engaging performance as this young girl, though as with most actors’ attempts to play a child there are a couple of more forced and grating moments, but the themes introduced here do little by themselves and as of yet have not been developed through the other two planned stories that have not seen development. There is a tremendous amount of potential both for this story and for the presumed trilogy, but ‘The Child’ is a difficult story to fully invest in solely as written and instead relies on Jameson’s power and the unspoken components to truly shine.

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