The Middle

Posted in Audio by - November 20, 2017
The Middle

Released November 2017
SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

Doctor Who has never been afraid of instigating discussion about social norms, current events, and the motivations behind the decisions that those in positions of power make. Yet perhaps of just how accepted and ingrained into culture the progression is, the preconceptions of age itself are rarely touched upon in more than fleeting glances and passing asides. But as Flip tries to craft a memorable birthday experience for Constance upon the futuristic world of Formicia where the pampered citizens leisurely pass their days, age comes to the forefront as the Doctor and his companions soon find that the price of this perfect society is a high one and that ‘The End is the Beginning’ is much more than just a simple slogan.

Writer Chris Chapman has crafted a story that satisfyingly contains several developing layers, a facet that works more naturally than in most stories because the audience discovers the progressive truths alongside the Doctor rather than being either ahead of or behind him. Thus, what begins as a seeming cautionary tale works exceedingly well on a world where the young get to live carefree lives, the middle-aged face the menial tasks of work, and the elderly face the ominous finality of The End upon reaching their seventieth birthday, leading to the expectation that Formician society is forcing upon its citizens an ethical subject that is just now beginning to be discussed more openly in medical circles.

Of course, rarely is anything quite as simple as it seems, and the Doctor’s own age affords him access to just what exactly ‘The End’ entails, forcing him to fight with his own sense of morality as he tries to discover the truth and help those by whom he suddenly finds himself surrounded. There is something to be said about how the elderly are written and portrayed in ‘The Middle,’ and it’s actually quite harrowing to see how accepting they are of the situation in which they find themselves, treating it as their debt to their descendants after living a good, full life. By writing this group as brave and honourable despite being led to believe in blatant lies, Chapman almost lends a sense of credibility to the manner in which this society is designed despite its abhorrent segregation and the despair of separation from family upon which it is built, a true testament to the quality of writing on display.

The sequence of events that unfolds is held together by Mark Heap’s Middleman, a character who clearly relishes his position of power and the opportunities it affords him. While it’s clear from the outset that he holds much more information than the general population knows, the ultimate truth behind Formicia and its ever-present threat of battle is a harrowing one that strikes at the very heart of this civilization that so greatly honours its own lost generation. This is a character that could have easily devolved into caricature, but Heap manages to imbue just the right amount of menace to always keep him as a sincere and threatening danger. At the same time, Miranda Raison and Lisa Greenwood continue to excel as Constance and Flip respectively, both together and when separated. Though the Doctor and his wellbeing are always on their minds, it’s great to see just how quickly these two have deeply bonded despite their age and temporal differences, and the matronly role that Constance seems to be taking on for her younger companion is a natural progression that will hopefully be further developed in future stories.

After the equally strong ‘The Behemoth,’ the Sixth Doctor is already enjoying another strong year in the hands of Big Finish, and the acting, directing, and sound design are as strong as ever in ‘The Middle.’ At times thrilling and pacey and at times heartbreaking and upsetting, ‘The Middle’ is always entertaining with its distorted look at the assumptions of age that are rampant in society today, revealing layer by satisfying layer to create an immense whole that never quite follows expectations.

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