The Reaping

Posted in Audio by - May 26, 2016
The Reaping

Released September 2006

For Peri Brown, it’s been two years since she decided to join the Doctor on his travels throughout the universe. Upon discovering that her best friend’s father has been murdered, she insists that the Doctor take her back to Baltimore so that she can be part of the ensuing funeral and wake services. As Peri soon finds out, though, suddenly disappearing for four months in her family’s eyes has had devastating consequences; her stepfather has been accused of aiding in the kidnapping of Peri and has divorced her mother, someone who feels as though Peri’s reappearance is a ploy to become the centre of attention once more. The Doctor, deciding to sidestep the turbulent family emotions, instead embarks on a mission to solve the murder of Anthony Chambers, leading to a startling revelation as he discovers Cybermen who have been awaiting his arrival.

As the Cybermen continue to fight for survival, ‘The Reaping’ does a good job in bringing out the requisite horror that the species demands and that Big Finish has proven so adept at writing. In fact, ‘The Reaping’ features a fairly solid plan from the Cybermen to gain supremacy, a much more logical scheme than they usually possess, that brings with it a significant amount of tension and drama for the other characters involved. On the other hand, the drama surrounding Peri’s return at home is a bit more mixed. Her mother’s belief that Peri has returned to bring import to herself misses the mark given how terrible the consequences have been even if it is only over four months. Claudia Christian is believable in her acting, and as a parent that has helped to form Peri she is quite solid, but she never seems to fully deliver the height of emotion that would seemingly be expected given everything going on around her. She does manage to sell her exasperation of Peri leaving with a stranger for four months at least, though her trust in the Doctor also comes about rather easily without much persuasion.

The rest of the supporting cast offers generally strong performances. Stuart Milligan is superb as the murdered Anthony Chambers who, through recordings and other means, is able to express the range of emotions associated with the slow realization that he is serving the Cybermen. Vincent Pirillo’s pseudo-companion of the piece Daniel Woods is also quite strong at expressing his shock and horror about the circumstances around Chambers’s death as well as what is unfolding around him. As a Cyber-controlled police officer, John Schwab nails the emotionless delivery as he goes about his tasks and even subtly threatens the Doctor. Chambers’s children, Jeremy Lindsay-Taylor’s Nathan and Jane Perry’s Kathy, offer polar opposite performances- whether purposefully or not- the former filled with apathy which comes off as rather flat and the latter with an urge to carry the burden herself.

The Sixth Doctor, and particularly Colin Baker, is the obvious star of this story, though, interacting with emotionally-charged humans while still playing up his alien nature. He gets to show off his extreme intelligence and even some flashes of humour, while still carrying a darker aura around him that culminates in a quite horrific ending that suits the character of the Sixth Doctor as well as the Cybermen perfectly. Nicola Bryant is also perfectly enjoyable as Peri, but the script never affords her a big moment of triumph, strange since everything seems to be centred around her given her family’s presence in her own hometown.

In the end, the Cybermen portion of ‘The Reaping’ is stellar and offers some truly standout moments that rank among Big Finish’s best. Unfortunately, the portion with Peri’s reconnection with her family and friends fails to live up to the lofty standards of that portion, though it is still perfectly suitable taken within context. There is a genuinely surprising twist ending to ‘The Reaping’ that ocmes out of nowhere and will surely play into future Big Finish audios, but it’s impact is lessened given that televised stories in Peri’s future means that there cannot possibly be any lasting effect. Still, it’s an intriguing ending to an otherwise solid adventure bolstered once more by Colin Baker’s mastery in the role.

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