The Oracle of Delphi

Posted in Audio by - August 21, 2018
The Oracle of Delphi

Released November 2006

Picking up on the ending to ‘Summer of Love,’ Bernice and Jason travel to ancient Greece to consult the revered Oracle of Delphi in an attempt to save the Braxiatel Collection millennia in the future, inexplicably but apparently using the time rings that were seemingly destroyed in ‘The Grel Escape’ to manage the feat. With Athens at war with Sparta and its women possessed by a horrifying cult Bernice has no knowledge of as Jason goes missing, Bernice enlists the help of Socrates to find her husband while simultaneously surviving Athens’s unavoidable fate and saving the future.

The setup for ‘The Oracle of Delphi’ is a tried and trusted one that Doctor Who has liberally used for decades with great success, and writer Scott Handcock alters the themes for the unique dynamic and nuances of Bernice Summerfield expertly. This is the first true Earth historical story for this range since the sublime ‘Just War,’ and though no serial could realistically be expected to repeat the sheer drama and powerful emotion oozing from that production, the tale on display here succeeds so well simply because it delivers its familiar beats with a supreme confidence that allows for plenty of humour and genuine drama befitting of the franchise’s stronger entries. In a land where men reign supreme, the melodramatic and exaggerated stylings of this so-called democracy are the perfect backdrop for a growing female presence, and Paul Shelley proves to be the perfect voice for Socrates who is presented simply as another man of the era but who has an undeniable kindness and charm to complement his intelligence and thought processes stemming from his time.

Bernice, of course, has plenty of experience traveling in time and determining when and how to interfere if necessary, but Jason has no qualms about bluntly making his own thoughts known, and his suggestion that Athens simply let the Spartans into its city which the Athenians then take to be the first step in a plan for slaughter is a great example of Jason getting involved when he should steer clear. With Bernice wondering if this aspect of Jason’s personality is why they ended up together in the first place, Jason soon finds himself the unwitting slave of a matriarchal cult led by Mistress Megaira, a low point for the character who is so often led by his more base desires that culminates with him holding a knife to Bernice’s throat. Jason is not always written as the strongest character, and his portrayal here does little to alleviate that fact, but sadly any emotional fallout stemming from this drama is glossed over with a simple discussion between the two that suggests that this is nothing too out of the ordinary for them.

Bernice is a prime example of what women will become in the future from Athens’s standpoint, and so her very presence provides a strong point of comparison for everything that is occurring around her even as her propensity to talk gives away her gender more than any physical features as she assumes to be the case. She learns that she is important to Braxiatel’s plans and has a major role to play in the future, but it’s her struggle to ensure the sanctity of history as she struggles with telling Socrates of the oncoming plague that will kill almost everything but warns him that it cannot be avoided or history altered. Still, as she becomes ever more entwined with Megaira who has a stone that allows her to see the future but who has a very personal history with Athens and whose ceremonial wine can ensure a semblance of safety, she never shies away from what is thrown at her even as the tables are quickly and often turned on her.

‘The Oracle of Delphi’ is fairly traditional in its own right, but it represents yet another genre in a season full of distinct entries that the audio range is absolutely capable of exploring with great effect. With a wonderful relationship and chemistry between Lisa Bowerman and Paul Shelley on display, the excellent direction and sound design help to create a seamless experience that overcomes a few missing moments of stronger ambition and emotional fallout to deliver yet another memorable experience.

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