The Side of the Angels

Posted in Audio by - December 30, 2018
The Side of the Angels

Released March 2017

As the epic Doom Coalition saga approaches its end with its penultimate tale in Matt Fitton’s ‘The Side of the Angels,’ secret plans are afoot to offer safety in 1970s New York City to Time Lords not acquiescent to Padrac’s plan for universal destruction. Fronted by Cardinal Ollistra and sponsored by the mysterious Reverend Mortimer, these plans draw the attention of the Eleven who seeks to quash their progress straight away, but when the Doctor and his companion arrive, rival Time Lords just may be the least of this unsuspecting city’s concerns.

The one thing for which nobody will ever be able to fault ‘The Side of the Angels’ is sheer ambition, and Fitton deftly weaves into the overlying Doom Coalition story elements from The Eighth Doctor Adventures, The War Doctor audio series, and the modern series while also introducing new faces of familiar associates of the Doctor. Though the exact reason that Ollistra has chosen New York in this time remains murky, the city nonetheless represents a familiar and suitably impressive backdrop to ensure these universe-spanning affairs remain on a relatable level. The story also doesn’t bother explaining just why Ollistra has such trust in the man who reveals himself to be the incarnation of the Meddling Monk introduced in ‘The Black Hole,’ but this likewise presents an incredible source of personal drama for the Doctor considering the history these two have together stemming from Tamsin Drew’s fate in their earlier encounters. Dark Eyes began and excelled by featuring a remarkably despondent and angry Doctor hurting from the loss of Lucie Miller, and though this story strangely does not explain if this version of the Monk is a future one who is just as mad at the Doctor or a past one oblivious to what is to come, it’s refreshing to once more experience the absolute anger that Paul McGann is so adept at delivering when delving into the more distressing moments of his character’s long history. As the tale is much more willing to directly reference the War Doctor audios than the earlier Eighth Doctor audios, however, there is a strange imbalance present that does somewhat take away from some of Rufus Hound’s wonderful turn as the Monk that ends with such a surprising but rational action from the Doctor.

Taking nothing away from Rufus Hound who complements McGann excellently, the title makes it abundantly clear that the Weeping Angels are the featured foe here since the Time Lords have inexplicably allied with them to ensure the power for their shield until the inevitable massive release of energy when Padrac’s plans come to fruition. This is their second appearance for Big Finish, and although they rely very heavily on visual scares with their impossible speed when not in sight, this story does well to combine narration and musical stings to highlight their movements as best as possible within the audio medium. Perhaps more effective, however, is the inclusion of the oft-forgotten bit of Angel lore that that which holds the image of an Angel becomes an Angel itself, and this component adds a much more nuanced and deliberate layer of fear to the pulse-pounding jolts these foes so routinely deliver. Oddly, these supposed negotiations between the Angels and Time Lords go against what has been established about the Angels previously, and the Doctor simply pointing this out does little to offer a full sense of cohesion to the events on display here even before natural tendencies begin to assert themselves.

There’s something to be said about a series that refuses to be pinned down or accused of following any sort of predictable path, but continuing to introduce so many new elements as a new Citadel is built on Earth does somewhat detract from the realisation of Padrac’s plot since these events are so far removed from him even with the Eleven sent to do the dirty work whichhe takes to with spiteful relish. In fact, Padrac is practically being presented as assured of victory, and with the Doctor so involved in resolving this problem that is so distinct from Padrac’s mission, the Coalition’s inevitable fall will by necessity come about all that more quickly in the finale. As it is, there are further cracks in the Coalition’s armour introduced as the Eleven is presented with the notion that he just may be superfluous to Padrac’s needs, but all of these plot elements also mean that both Liv and Helen are sidelined from the main action while put in harm’s way with the Angels approaching. Still, despite some genuinely engaging material that traverses so much of Doctor Who’s history with further pieces put in place for this epic’s finale, there simply isn’t enough time to explore the nuances of all of the material presented with the finale looming large.

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