The Integral

Posted in Audio by - April 29, 2018
The Integral

Released June 2016
SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

When tempers boil over in the TARDIS, the Second Doctor struggles to help Jamie and Zoe resolve their differences about the resolute and fixed nature of right and wrong, and the isolated Aspen Base that finds itself under siege puts their beliefs to the test in the most dangerous manner imaginable in ‘The Integral’ by David Bartlett.

This box set has been predicated upon the continuing education of Jamie throughout his lengthy tenure at the Doctor’s side, and that trend certainly continues in ‘The Integral’ as his eighteenth-century beliefs are called into question by Zoe’s own twenty-first century beliefs. Though there are certainly examples to refute his claim, Jamie firmly believes that every alien race in the universe has evil intentions based on his own experiences, but although this pairing with Jamie alongside arguably the most advanced and intelligent non-Gallifreyan companion the Doctor has ever had is the best setting for this comparison, the ultimate execution of this exploration of the differences between Jamie and Zoe falls somewhat flat and sometimes borders on simplistic stereotyping. It’s quite bluntly shown that Jamie is extremely single-minded and is unable to take into account the many different viewpoints of other people and beings, a direct contrast to the supposedly more logical people of Zoe’s time who always take others’ beliefs and views into account to avoid trouble and anger. The problem is that Jamie has known from the start of his travels with the Doctor that he is out of his element as has always been open to changing his viewpoints and expanding his scope of comprehension as he learns of the wonders and evils of the universe, and though ‘The Integral’ does try to balance this out by suggesting that Jamie knows how to control his emotions and especially his anger to achieve a goal, the fact that Zoe does not recognise the value of emotions in certain circumstances gives both characters a strange detachment from the overall human experience that was almost certainly not the intent.

Fortunately, despite some heavy-handedness in the delivery of its exploration of ethics and morality, the central idea driving ‘The Integral’ is a strong one. This is a time when constant exposure to a particular video game has resulted in damage to the psyches of its players, leaving them in a constant state of anger and paranoia where they believe the rules are killed or be killed. The company behind the game has been charged with creating a treatment centre and developing a cure to this outbreak, and the current modality of assuaging fears relies on a combination of a pacification machine and an alien race known as the Integral who can absorb anger and thus influence the human emotional state. With the ultimate goal being to eliminate the need for the Integral altogether despite a flawed premise for the machine, the Integral find themselves under attack as their numbers continue to diminish and pass beneath the critical threshold, a concept set up as a nice spin on the traditional storyline of aliens attacking humans that is somewhat undone by the introduction of a murderous robot.

From beginning to end, Frazer Hines and Wendy Padbury give spectacular performances throughout and bring the story and personal emotions to life expertly. Although the frequent switches from third-person to first-person and back again are somewhat disconcerting, the production brings the environment and dangerous patients at this facility to life wonderfully as well, giving a fuller sense of scope and scale to an ambitious story with all the right intentions that lacks the nuance and subtlety needed for this type of introspective comparison.

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