The Outliers

Posted in Audio by - October 17, 2017
The Outliers

Released October 2017
SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

The Early Adventures has been a revelation for Big Finish, aptly allowing period-evoking tales featuring the First and Second Doctors to come to life with dynamic performances and a touch of narration that creates the illusion of a reconstructed missing story soundtrack. ‘The Outliers’ captures that sentiment perfectly, bringing the Second Doctor, Polly, Ben, and Jamie to a flooded underground town on an alien world initially devoid of any signs of life. But as the group quickly discovers and becomes blamed for the continuing disappearances of local miners, it becomes clear that there is another force present and that the scale of the disappearances is much bigger than previously realised.

The Second Doctor era is known for its tales of bases under siege, and that’s primarily the format used here even as the mystery of the actual nature of the siege remains the biggest driving force of the narrative. The scope of ‘The Outliers’ is actually rather impressive, and it’s interesting to consider how the television series of the time might have gone about bringing to life a large asteroid that has been mined out, inside of which so many people live but who are all in danger of succumbing to the rising waters from deeper yet.

Despite the rather straightforward setup, though, ‘The Outliers’ is anything but a straightforward story, and writer Simon Guerrier seems to revel in amplifying the tension that results from the unknown as both the miners and the strange presence within the water become more developed. Though it becomes clear quite early on that Alistair Petrie’s Richard Tipple knows more about the disappearances than those around him even with the data having been skewed so much over time, he nonetheless provides a strong presence on the human side as he acts in his own self interest, in the process creating a unique commentary about a totalitarian type of society. Of course, not every person is destined to follow blindly, and the story certainly gives due plaudits to those who are at least willing to consider a different alternative.

This all feeds into the eventual discussion and exploration of the mysterious entity in the water, and Guerrier certainly continues to add to the mystery while challenging assumptions throughout. What seems at first like a malicious force taking the miners away slowly develops into one that is studying those it takes once the Doctor falls victim, exploring the fluidity of potential futures as it tries to avert a foreseen disaster. The manner in which this discovery eventually unfolds is a bit disjointed from the remainder of the serial, but the implications are fantastic and lead to a dramatic showdown in the present while hinting at what may be yet to come in the characters’ futures.

The cast is uniformly strong, and it’s great to hear Ben Jackson’s involvement continue to expand as Elliot Chapman continues to impress in the role. At the same time, Anneke Wills is superb as Polly continues to develop much more than allowed on television, and her narration is deftly delivered to provide stable linking that also further embellishes settings and characters’ feelings. As always, Frazer Hines is magnificent as he channels both the young Jamie and Patrick Troughton’s Second Doctor seemingly effortlessly. The overall pacing is somewhat slower than most of these stories, but ‘The Outliers’ overall is a wonderfully scripted, acted, and directed story that continues to present further layers to what seems like a familiar concept while easily capturing the tone and feel of the Second Doctor era.

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