The Gift

Posted in Audio by - December 18, 2018
The Gift

Released March 2016

Pursuing Caleera across the universe, the TARDIS lands back on Earth in 1906 San Francisco on the eve of the city’s infamous earthquake. Yet as the Doctor, Liv, and Helen cross paths with a desperate actor hoping to stage his production of King Lear, a dangerous psychic gift hungry for power and bringing only amplified destruction in its wake threatens much more than just this ill-fated city in ‘The Gift’ by Marc Platt.

The Doctor, of course, is eminently familiar with San Francisco, his current life having begun there following a random shooting and a surgery gone wrong, and Paul McGann gives an emotive performance that captures his character’s excitement about returning as well as his increasing erraticism due to increasing exposure to such strong psychic forces around him. The issue with the Doctor acting more eccentric than usual is that at least portions of the supporting cast are frequently amplified in terms of eccentricity as well, and in this case it’s initially the insanity of Cory English’s Sam Sonora resulting from the gift that makes this the second consecutive story in which some guest performances- by design or not, and realising this is subjective- are just a bit too outlandish to be accepted without question. Sadly, the passing of the gift also plagues James Jordan’s Charles Virgil MacLean who follows suit and becomes increasingly difficult to accept even if the effects of the gift are being adequately described in the process.

Intriguingly, Platt does not try to suggest that this historically destructive event is due solely to Caleera, instead stating that it would have occurred regardless of her appearance but that she purposefully brought her weaponised gift here to test its capabilities as it reprograms the minds it inhabits. Naturally, Caleera plans on the Doctor’s arrival and intends on using him for the final part of her plan to destroy the Earth, but whereas ‘Scenes from Her Life’ took ample time to develop the history and nuances of Caleera, she is presented here as nothing more than a stereotypical villain with no definition and no real explanation as to just why she wants to destroy the Earth. This same lack of nuance unfortunately applies to Helen who shared such wonderful scenes and development with Caleera in the previous tale, here only taking part in something of a superfluous storyline that adds little to the main narrative. This is not to take away from the strong performance that Hattie Morahan gives as usual nor from the great chemistry among the three leads that is once more present, but it’s all too glaring that both Helen and Caleera have through two stories had a feast or famine situation in terms of details afforded the characters.

However, with such a monumental natural disaster imminent, the impetus was always going to be for Big Finish to successfully realise the earthquake on the audio medium, and here the production excels on every front. It would have been all too easy to simply present this disaster as a series of random noises and exclamations, but the true nature and power of this event is successfully conveyed without any confusion or random filler. However, not too much is done with the actual earthquake in terms of storytelling besides showing how the Doctor is able to use the gift when Liv is trapped, and this seems like another missed opportunity for the story to truly do something special with its unique setting and burgeoning villain. Ultimately, that’s somewhat the sentiment for ‘The Gift’ as a whole which has some intriguing ideas but that can’t quite capitalise on the momentum of the previous tale to lead into this box set’s finale on the same high.

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