The Robots Volume Four

Posted in Audio by - June 14, 2021
The Robots Volume Four

Released June 2021

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

A quick return trip home to Kaldor for Liv was perhaps not the strongest foundation for an audio series, but The Robots has quickly established itself as one of Big Finish’s strongest offerings in terms of world-building and characterization. Now entering its fourth volume of three stories, a Kaldor society on the verge of conflict with its very foundation while tensions continue to escalate once more comes to life as the consequences of the events in ‘The Robots of Death’ continue to branch and spiral.

Serving as a sequel to ‘Circuit Breaker,’ ‘Closed Loop’ by Guy Adams opens the fourth volume with Lish Toos- now on the run from the Company- arriving at Ander Poul’s domicile and requesting he join her on a furtive trip to the desert to unearth proof that robots pose an immediate threat to their society. Although he’s inclined to join despite the innate anxiety and fear that his robophobia causes, even he is unprepared for the unspoken fact that their trip will lead to the original sandminer Storm Mine 4 that was home to the beginning of it all in ‘The Robots of Death.’ With D84 given voice once more by Gregory de Polnay to further reinforce the unique strength and fragility of Poul’s psyche as Toos refuses to fully divulge the nature of the information she has, David Collings once more gives a superb performance as a man who is so wholly uncomfortable in his surroundings that his friend and colleague continues to bring into focus all the more clearly. As words and individual phrases are revealed to have a much more profound meaning as a devastating truth about robots that will certainly have greater ramifications for the series going forward comes to light, this performance becomes all the more weighted and impactful, truly brining Poul’s fear full circle with an inevitable yet truly earned moment of realization and fallout. ‘Closed Loop’ is perhaps the most psychological instalment of this series yet as so much of Poul’s personal experiences are revisited, and it proves to be a fantastic counterbalance to the very real and perceived threats the robots pose to Kaldor while laying the groundwork to further delve into those very issues all the more effectively in the future as tensions continue to rise and societal confrontation seems all but certain.

In Sarah Grochala’s ‘Off the Grid,’ a Supervoc is found on the streets, claiming responsibility for a recent explosion. Liv and Tula know that the Sons of Kaldor are attempting to frame robots for their deadly deeds, but with tensions already at a breaking point and the Company desperate to avoid any bad press, the sisters’ recent actions are called into question as they attempt to smuggle the Supervoc out of the city that has suddenly gone dark following an electromagnetic pulse attack. Indeed, with the Chenkas so closely involved with so many recent and strange events involving the robots, it’s logical that incorrect assumptions and connections could be made, and Tula suddenly finds herself accused of being a spy for the Sons of Kaldor by the Company to which she has devoted so much of her life. Even the mysterious circumstances surrounding Liv’s reappearance on Kaldor that the Company cannot account for cause Tula consternation, and a hostage situation only intensifies the suspicion directed toward her. It’s an interesting dynamic given what the audience and the Chenkas themselves understand about their intentions, and the resulting conflict with Skellen as Tula’s attempts to follow her heart while maintaining a semblance of her normal life catch up to her is organic and well-realized. At the same time, Liv comes to realize just how advanced certain technology on Kaldor truly is, and her forward-thinking and innovative nature is on full display as she discovers a new means to giving specific robots hope via a fitting homage to American slavery while also further developing the class structure of this world as the nomads and the possible futures of this world gain prominence. A split storyline is difficult to pull off in a balanced manner within one story, but Grochala adeptly manages to highlight the very best of the Chenkas, Nicola Walker, and Claire Rushbrook while continuing to amass a palpable sense of inevitable conflict.

Robert Whitelock’s ‘The Janus Deception’ closes out this fourth volume with the Company investigating Tula for fraud, industrial espionage, and conspiracy. This is a logical progression given the suspicion already cast upon her in the preceding story, and the unstated power of the Company even when doling out its own justice to best suit its own purposes no matter the ultimate truth or inconvenience is prominently thrust into the spotlight. Tula and Liv, of course, implicitly know that she is not guilty of the crimes she has been accused of, and Tula- with the support of Skellen- must work within the confines of the system before her attempt to find out who has so devastatingly tarnished her otherwise impeccable reputation and record. In the high-tech world of Kaldor, the notion of a stolen identity and traversing social media to find an element of truth is perfectly relatable and resonant, and the despair that Rushbrook is able to imbue into her usual optimistic determination is pitch perfect at all times. Meanwhile, Liv takes her own journey to attempt to discover the truth in order to clear her sister’s name, and with Sorkov promising her a meeting with Lish Toos should she prove successful, this proves to be a strong manner by which to more closely intertwine the distinct threads of this saga for future releases while also questioning Liv’s true motivations. Fueled by truly distinct yet wholly intense journeys for the Chenkas and Skellen alike while also showing that robots need not be driven purely by logic, ‘The Janus Deception’ is a fittingly strong conclusion to this set that perfectly builds upon so much character work that come before while boldly setting into motion the next inevitable step of the ideological and technological war brewing within Kaldor’s society.

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