The Condemned

Posted in Audio by - June 27, 2016
The Condemned

Released February 2008

‘The Condemned’ represents the beginning of a big risk for Big Finish, albeit one full of potential and intrigue. After her attempt to stop the Cybermen left her marooned in the distant future, Charlotte Pollard never gave up hope that someone would rescue her. Believing that her Eighth Doctor had answer that beckon when the familiar TARDIS arrived, she was surprised to instead find an unfamiliar control room and the Sixth Doctor inside, and he was instantly suspicious that she seemed to be not entirely forthcoming with information.

Fortunately, the Charlotte Pollard on display here is an incredibly intelligent one and she knows the danger of revealing her own past and the Doctor’s own future to the Doctor who had never made any mention of traveling with her before meeting her in his eighth incarnation. Accordingly, she acts amazed as she experiences the size of the console room for the first time, though the Doctor is still suspicious at how easily she accepted a police box appearing in front of her. The Sixth Doctor is no fool, though, and he eventually confronts Charley directly when her story changes a bit too much for her liking, leading to her faking a case of amnesia to appease him.

That mystery of the ramifications of these two characters intersecting soon gets put in the background, though, as the story proper unfolds around them when the TARDIS materializes next to a dead body in a decaying Machester tower block. The Doctor naturally finds himself as a prime suspect in the eyes of the no-nonsense DI Patricia Menzies, and Charley is soon taken captive by someone in the complex. Even though the Doctor finds time to briefly question Charley during their time together, he is very much focused on the bigger picture, piecing together the story of an alien invasion and a mysterious doctor while allowing the local police force to fill in the finer details. This is a brasher Sixth Doctor than the one who has been traveling with Evelyn Smythe, but his inquisitive nature is still on full display and he is still a softer, more approachable Doctor than he initially started out as.

The bonus of having an established companion join the fray is that it takes no time for the typical settling in period to occur, and Charley brings none of the emotional baggage from her time with the Eight Doctor with her. Charley is already fully capable of handling the perils of adventuring on her own, and although she does spend a good deal of time imprisoned while being interrogated for information about the murder victim, she actively continues to try to escape. Likewise, she is incredibly patient and altruistic with another lonely man who finds himself trapped in the basement with only a direct telephone line to her for communication. Her eventual arrival in the basement proves to be a very humanizing moment for her, showcasing the fears that she still has even after all of her travels and experiences.

The alien story starts out as a rather standard story with some aliens trying to anonymously hide away while others try to make their fortune, and the police investigation angle holds up very well. The weapon that merges a being with a building, giving them complete control of everything within it is a plot point that is a bit harder to realistically get across, but the concept is ingenious and makes for some incredibly tense scenes. The sound effects employed truly bring the decrepit building to life, and the subtlest sound is able to convey much more than any words could thanks to the conceit behind the story.

The secondary cast is all serviceable, but Anna Hope is a definite standout as DI Menzies, able to bring a combination of sass, weariness, and determination to her role as a character who is completely unafraid to stand up to the Doctor. She may not comprehend the alien invasion plot, but she is more than self-assured with how she will handle the murder aspect. Because of Hope as well as the fantastic atmosphere, the experiment of pairing Colin Baker and India Fisher- who already show a unique but excellent chemistry- must be classified as a resounding success. The invasion plan may not be the most intriguing, but that ends up being a rather minor point in the end.

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