The End of the Line

Posted in Audio by - July 28, 2018
The End of the Line

Released August 2015
SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

It took until 2015, but Big Finish has finally tied up the last truly momentous lingering plot point from the classic run of Doctor Who, the events leading up the Sixth Doctor’s regeneration. Up until the release of The Last Adventure, fans had to settle for an inadequate on-screen explanation of the regeneration and were not even allowed to see Colin Baker properly regenerate, treated instead to Sylvester McCoy wearing Baker’s wardrobe and a wig approximating his hair and later offered two suggested final adventures in the written medium with Spiral Scratch and Time’s Champion. Much like 2013’s ‘The Night of the Doctor’ provided a long overdue but deeply satisfying send-off to Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor, The Last Adventure looks to take full advantage of the second life the audio medium has afforded this most fascinating and nuanced of Doctors with four interlinked stories from throughout this incarnation’s long life that chronicle the events leading up to his final moments.

‘The End of the Line’ by Simon Barnard and Paul Morris wastes little time with throwing the Doctor and Constance Clarke squarely into the middle of a haunting mystery as the two investigate a commuter train that has lost its way. The Sixth Doctor, of course, is famed for meeting his companion Melanie Bush out of chronological order during the events of his epic trial, and so it makes a sort of perfect sense that his latest audio companion should be introduced in this set as an established part of the TARDIS prior to her official meeting of the Doctor in September 2015’s ‘Criss-Cross.’ Miranda Raison gives a profound performance as this member of the Women’s Royal Navy Service who is more than capable of understanding the broad ideas of the complexities of the circumstances facing them as the Doctor explains them and standing both beside and up to the Doctor as events turn ever more dangerous and bizarre. The Doctor has an implicit trust in Constance, and Raison and Baker have a electrifying chemistry that sets the bar extremely high for their continuing- or beginning- adventures together.

Barnard and Morris conjure and immense atmosphere of stifling claustrophobia and foreboding as the Doctor and Constance come upon a train streaked in blood within a dense fog where time has seemingly stopped and station platforms continue to mysteriously appear at an increasing pace. With a man found dead in multiple locations and an isolated group of passengers trapped with a terrible danger lurking and with tensions rising, the many shades of human nature and suspicion that isolation brings out are briefly but expertly explored as in the fascinating television episode ‘Midnight.’ However, the narrative soon strays from the intimate to the grandiose as Kettering Junction is revealed to be a dimensional interchange that is beginning to break down with an infinite number of trains and passengers- some not so dissimilar to this universe’s but others interminably more evil- about to arrive. The realisation that there are dark versions of everyone out there, in fact, leads to an incredibly profound and frightening moment for Ony Uhiara’s Alice who begins to wonder why she should always play the good girl when there are viable alternatives clearly available.

Lending an air of scope to events, the legends of the Parallel Sect race that was able to cross from one reality to the next as easily as mortals cross from one room to another and that created a reality web connecting every possible reality form the foundation for this backdrop. The cover of The Last Adventure makes it no secret that the Valeyard will prominently focus, but the mystery behind the new management present instead defies expectations and introduces the Master using the avatar guise of Chris Finney’s Keith Potter who so effectively switches between unassuming man and the more haughty tones of the Master as he hopes to force the Doctor’s help to make his universes-spanning madness a reality. The interplay between Baker and Finney perfectly captures the spirit of the very best Doctor and Master interactions and certainly heightens the danger even further, but Big Finish goes one step further to then properly introduce the Valeyard as a dangerous presence that holds sway over even the Master himself.

‘The End of the Line’s is a spectacularly tense and psychological thriller that wonderfully sets the stage for the impending regeneration of the Sixth Doctor as well as the unexplored era with Constance by his side. With immense performances from all involved to accompany the strong direction and sound design that so wonderfully create this ominous environment, the story stands among Big Finish’s best both as an isolated story and as one that is so crucial to filling in the overall mythology to Doctor Who, especially regarding just how the appearance of a certain dimensional stabiliser fits into events.

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