The Time Machine

Posted in Audio by - January 04, 2018
The Time Machine

Released November 2013

For the first and quite possibly only time, Big Finish and the audio medium have been allowed to release a story featuring the current incarnation of the Doctor still on television, bringing the Eleventh Doctor to life once more in a story that fittingly resolves the series of interlinked but one-off homages to previous eras that has formed this unique run of Destiny of the Doctor. On 23 November 2013 in an Oxford laboratory, graduate assistant Alice Watson and Professor Chivers compile and construct the final pieces of a seemingly impossible time machine, realizing they are on the verge of making history but unaware of the threat to the universe that their completed machine will pose. The Doctor has sensed the danger, however, and he soon takes Alice on a whirlwind tour around the world and into Earth’s very doomed future, desperate to find a way to stop the Creevix who seek to control time and willing to use even his own past as a weapon against them.

Being set in the concurrent timeframe as the television series, the concluding ‘Time Machine’ is afforded a greater degree of flexibility and experimentalism with its format, beginning with the Doctor traveling alone rather than with a companion as in the previous ten instalments of the range even though Jenna Coleman still provides the narration and main acting. Nonetheless, all of the hallmarks of producer Steven Moffat’s first lead are present in abundance, and the characterization of the Eleventh Doctor is superb as he beautifully meshes a sort of genius and madness that sees him rapidly but logically piece together threads of the puzzle in a way that can seem fragmented and dotty to others. Coleman certainly understands Smith’s mannerisms as well, and his disarming eccentricity and agelessness are captured perfectly as she narrates the tale to provide a strong anchor for a story that must stand on its own feet while also referencing everything that has come before it.

With the rather focused and scientific Alice providing the eyes through which events unfold and acting as the de facto companion here, there is understandably a bit of emotional disconnect even with Coleman’s voice overlaying the character. Nonetheless, Alice works exceedingly well as a new vessel through which to explore the prospect of myths and legends within the realm of the science of Doctor Who, highlighting the unique mix of science and pseudoscience that has for so long welcomed fans of all types to the franchise. In grand Moffat fashion, however, the resolution to this long-standing narrative can invoke the dreaded ‘timey-wimey’ phrase as it involves events from throughout the Doctor’s many lives set in motion by his present self. Thankfully, the execution and explanation of this plot point is fairly straightforward and sometimes sentimental as Professor Chivers and his misguided aspirations and beliefs become the focal nexus point upon which the Earth’s future resides. Though the sequence does play out as a bit of an info dump that doesn’t necessarily pack as much of an emotional impact as may have been possible, the linking of the various people and items saved and the specific actions taken throughout this year’s releasescome together satisfyingly to prove just how courageous and smart the Eleventh Doctor is even when faced with impossible odds against the insectoid Creevix, proving that this destiny is far more robust and complex that even the most self-assured aggressor can hope to understand.

Without the last several minutes that tie together the range as a whole, ‘The Time Machine’ is another apt homage to a specific era in the long history of Doctor Who, capturing the unique energy of Matt Smith’s Eleventh incarnation and the grandiosity of the threat this Doctor so often faces expertly. It’s difficult to assess just how much planning went into the individual stories of Destiny of the Doctor regarding the elements that were needed for the resolution of ‘The Time Machine’ to occur, but Matt Fitton manages to highlight both the more overt and the more personal aspects of the ten previous adventures to bring about a sense of completeness and closure even if the resulting resolution is a understandably a bit rushed, in the process capping off a very unique and altogether successful experiment to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Doctor Who from the capable hands of Big Finish, AudioGo, and director John Ainsworth.

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