The Split Infinitive

Posted in Audio by - July 17, 2019
The Split Infinitive

Released July 2019

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

Following a superb introduction featuring the Eighth Doctor on the inevitable brink of going to war, The Legacy of Time next returns to the Seventh Doctor era in John Dorney’s ‘The Split Infinitive.’ Following a criminal gang that has seemingly recruited a member with temporal powers, the Doctor and Ace split up to tackle the danger in both the 1960s and the 1970s with the only non-temporal group they know that spans both decades, Counter-Measures.

Of course, the Doctor and Ace have a long history with Counter-Measures, featuring together in 1989’s ‘Remembrance of the Daleks’ and reuniting in 2013’s ‘1963: The Assassination Games,’ and it’s wholly fitting that the group’s members should greet their appearances with a certain dread that things are about to get much worse. In fact, because the Counter-Measures team has been together long enough to have had adventures spanning those two decades for Big Finish, it provides the perfect vehicle through which to introduce the temporal aspect behind the mystery of people suddenly ageing to death that is somehow connected to a gang with unbelievable and inexplicable capabilities of movement. Hugh Ross, Simon Williams, Karen Gledhill, and Pamela Salem have perfected their roles at this point, and each does well to provide a slightly different pitch and energy to their characters in the two distinct settings to hint at the shifting relationships and the accumulation of experiences that have formed their characters at each point. While the time constraints of the release do mean that a thorough exploration of these characters who may not be as familiar to the general listening audience as others isn’t possible, all four come vividly to life and should entice newcomers and casual fans to seek out the group’s expanded adventures that fortunately will be continuing.

With memories in the 1970s shifting as events occurring concurrently a decade earlier unfold and with nobody safe in either time zone as a result, the unique tone of this political thriller series fits perfectly with the Doctor’s surreptitious plan, the haunting truth behind a man who has somehow been cleaved temporally in two and is drawing the two times into one singularity, and the reason why some people remain unaffected by the strange glowing figure. All the more perfect, however, is the surprising inclusion of the Rocket Men in all of their futuristic-but-retro glory. These villains were instant standout highlights in The Companion Chronicles and have quite rightly returned to cross paths with the Doctor on multiple occasions since, and their airborne abilities mesh excellently with the heightened atmosphere and that adds a needed dynamic to what at first appears to be a stereotypical gangster threat while also highlighting the unique abilities and mindsets of the Counter-Measures members. ‘The Split Infinitive’ proves once again that the Rocket Men are more than a one-note threat, and this villain celebrating the glorious creations of Big Finish Doctor Who ends up being an incredible foil for the more grounded and regimented stylings of Counter-Measures under Sir Toby.

This is the Seventh Doctor at his manipulative best, piecing together the disparate strands of information before him as new memories manifest to reach a satisfying if relatively easy conclusion that hints at something much more profound that will occur at some other point in his lifetimes and result in the strange occurrences he witnesses here. Sylvester McCoy is brilliant throughout, and both Sophie Aldred and he interact easily with their co-stars as their characters deftly field the reactions stemming from their own distinct modes of action that are so against norms and regulations while Ace pointedly discusses the lack of shared reference points that results from time travelling. ‘The Split Infinitive’ may not be the type of story that many would instantly expect to be in this celebratory set, but with a villain introduced in the audio medium, a group that has truly developed and thrived in the audio medium, and the usual sterling direction and sound design that has accompanied Big Finish and these two leads from the very outset twenty years ago, it’s nonetheless a true testament to the expanded realms and heights that Doctor Who has continued to reach.

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