The Kingdom of the Blind

Posted in Audio by - August 13, 2018
The Kingdom of the Blind

Released October 2005

‘The Relics of Jegg-Sau’ proved just how successfully Big Finish could incorporate seemingly one-off foes into from classic Doctor Who into its Bernice Summerfield range, and ‘The Kingdom of the Blind’ by stalwart Jacqueline Rayner attempts to repeat that feat with the Monoids who only ever featured in 1966’s ‘The Ark.’

Under the influence of some sort of alien mental control, Bernice steals Braxiatel’s personal shuttle, causing Jason serious bodily harm in the process and then leaving him to the mercy of a horde of mute and unfriendly aliens. When Benny wakes to find herself only in her nightie with a bunch of one-eyed monsters threatening to remove her tongue as she finds the slave 26 with whom she has been telepathically communicating, she is wise enough to understand that one of her senses will be taken away if she shows evidence of possessing them all and that she needs to pretend to be deaf in order to keep her own tongue.

There is certainly plenty of comedy to be mined from this setup, but Rayner wisely shifts the focus away from the Monoids and onto the Halavan slave race that carries so much drama even before Bernice feels able to open up to her new friend about her tortured past and present with Jason. Of course, the slaves do not realise their own history and it’s Bernice who slowly pieces it together from the evidence around her and the strange necklaces that both she and 26 are wearing that allow for mental communication amongst a population that has willingly chosen to sacrifice speech in order to keep sight and hearing. The Halavans were a race famed for mental powers, but they had to evacuate their world as it succumbed to natural disasters they could not avert, filling a ship with their best and brightest to survive somewhere else. Suffering from in-fighting that resulted in the crashing of their ship on the Monoid homeworld, the Halavan conflict over enslaving the Monoids instead resulted in them becoming Monoid slaves when their telepathic boosters were destroyed, and it’s thus this fear of a full complement of senses that motivates the Monoids in their quest to retain power.

Fittingly, it’s Bernice’s remit to explore the heritage claims of people now trying to reclaim the now-idyllic Halavan homeworld as their own that leads Bernice to the world of the Monoids, but while she struggles to maintain her own life and figure out the truth, the injured Jason wanders helplessly into the clutches of slave 44 who famously escaped after choosing to sacrifice sight in order to retain speech. This multi-pronged approach to the story helps to flesh out the situation much more realistically, and the unspoken bond between 26 and 44 is a nice counterpoint to that between Bernice and Jason. However, Rayner intriguingly shows just how quickly mindsets can change when presented with a modicum of power, and the Halavans who initially seemed purely sympathetic again find themselves with thoughts mirroring their predecessors’ as dreams of superiority and conquest being to manifest. This is much more than clear-cut good versus evil, and ‘The Kingdom of the Blind’ is all the stronger for that nuance and complexity.

The resolution is undoubtedly a bit rushed, but this is another fine example of this audio range being able to take a rather outlandish concept and craft a surprisingly engaging story around it. With Caroline Morris giving a riveting performance in a role that could have so easily fallen flat and playing off of Lisa Bowerman perfectly, and with Jason being written intelligently and capably, ‘The Kingdom of the Blind’ is a return to form and delivers much more than might be expected given the concept and foe.

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