The Jabari Countdown

Posted in Audio by - November 17, 2018
The Jabari Countdown

Released November 2018
SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

After two trips into the far reaches of space, the TARDIS brings the Seventh Doctor, Roz, and Chris back to Earth on the fringes of World War II in Alan Flanagan’s ‘The Jabari Countdown.’ Stranded on an island with only a group of mathematicians as company, the group soon finds the dangers of one planet’s war far less consequential than the threat that has now made its way to Earth.

The Doctor wastes no time inserting himself into this group hoping to use mathematics to take the fight back to the Nazis, using the scant data available to him to piece together and understand his surroundings and- much to the chagrin of his companions- casting Chris in the role of his manservant and Roz his secretary who is so adept at shorthand. However, it’s not long before circumstances turn much more sinister as a fisherman’s dead body is found with the numbers scrawled on his hand the only apparent clue. Nobody is above suspicion in this group full of like-minded individuals who are strangers to each other, and Flanagan surprisingly but deftly takes the audience on a rather intimate exploration of the expanded cast in the process of uncovering the truth as numbers begin to overwrite normal speech patterns.

If there is one fault to ‘The Jabari Countdown,’ it’s that the script doesn’t quite do enough to hide the fact that Alpha Wheeler is far more integral to the underlying narrative than how she initially presents herself, intentionally or not. This isn’t meant to take away from the work that is done to develop the other characters as their pasts and secrets deliberately come to be known to test these individuals’ predispositions and composure, and the tale of Eleanor Blake is particularly resonant in today’s society that is slowly coming to accept individuals for who they truly are on the inside as much as the outside. However, whether because of the prominence given to the well-intentioned Alpha or just how commanding the performance of Janine Duvitski is, there’s never too much doubt about her role in events even before the Doctor uses his powers of deduction to firmly prove her involvement.

Still, with the strengths and weaknesses of every character on display, this is a strong character piece that also highlights the burgeoning comradeship between Roz and Chris as the mystery of each person’s different numbers intensifies. Indeed, with the eponymous alien threat taking a foothold on Earth as the Doctor tries to uncover the reason that certain planets in its path have been left alone, the increasing use of numbers in speech adds a tremendous sense of tension and impending doom to proceedings, and the terror that each actor is able to imbue while trying to retain at least a semblance of calm is very well done and added to strong direction allows what could have been a quite straightforward script to come to life with an added nuance and sparkle that could have easily been absent in different hands.

Like the preceding story, the resolution is a bit easy given the tremendous work that goes into discovering it, but it’s fitting both that the numbers should prove vital to its discovery and that the information for victory can still be misinterpreted to prove fatal. While the fact that the answer has been found before by an individual doesn’t necessarily give a glowing review to this group of geniuses, the solution and resultant look to the future allow the characters one final moment of introspection that absolutely delivers on all accounts with Eleanor again proving particularly resonant, rounding off a solid and enjoyable affair on a reflectively impactful note.

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