The Story of Extinction

Posted in Audio by - April 29, 2018
The Story of Extinction

Released June 2016
SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

Civilisations rise and fall, and few planets have seen this happen more often than Amyrndaa. The Doctor, Jamie, and Victoria land on this beautiful and idyllic planet teeming with life but none of it intelligent in ‘The Story of Extinction’ by Ian Atkins, joining a survey team to discover why nothing lives for long on this planet so suited for the creation of life.

With Frazer Hines again voicing the Second Doctor, both Jamie and Victoria are voiced by their original actors as Deborah Watling sets up the scenes through flashback and Hines narrates within the confines of those flashbacks. The story begins with a much older Victoria as the victim or a burglary she cannot report because the only item removed from the premises is a piece of alien technology. This forms the framing device as she slowly reveals how she came to be in possession of the piece of psychic paper, a remarkably nuanced affair that grapples with the power of words as the Doctor comes to realise that whatever it was that caused the planet’s past denizens to go extinct is still alive and well and is intent on doing the same to them. It’s quite fitting that the Doctor tries to shield his young companions from the danger of this world as he goes off to try to uncover the truth, and though that plan inevitably doesn’t work out as he intends, it does allow for a few tender moments as Victoria explains how she feels about the Doctor and her new life with him and as she teaches Jamie to read and about the subtle nuances of language.

There is a tense and melancholy atmosphere underlying ‘The Story of Extinction,’ but the thematic power of words comes to the forefront to deliver an experience wholly outside of the norm of season five in which this story is set. While there are certainly elements of a base under siege format, labeling it explicitly as so would do a tremendous disservice to the cleverly touching and timeless piece that avoids being too obvious with its motifs and arguments. With director Lisa Bowerman once more appearing within an entry of The Companion Chronicles, the character of Selsey more directly ties into the power of celebrity and the weight that words and actions can hold in that regard, but beyond that and the creatures made out of paper that manifest words on their surfaces and fold into attacking forms is a surprisingly deep story about the true consequences of words and context in their many forms.

Some may bemoan the slower moments focusing on Jamie and Victoria for detracting from the true story at hand, but the thematic parallels between the two elements are immense, and it’s these slower moments that exemplify the very best of the intimate nature of this range that truly brings characterisation to the forefront. With the letter being the first thing that Jamie has ever written on his own, leaving his words unstated is a bold but fitting ending to the relationship between these two friends that sadly never received a deeper exploration on television before Victoria eventually chose to leave this dangerous lifestyle behind her. And while it’s fitting that it should be the Seventh Doctor who comes by to tie up loose ends, ending with ‘V is for Victoria’ is an understated but impactful closing line to forever ensure remembrance of Deborah Watling’s beloved young companion.

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