The Unwinding World

Posted in Audio by - April 25, 2018
The Unwinding World

Released June 2015
SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

In a range that has been around since 2007 on a fairly consistent basis, it has become more and more difficult to distinguish narrative structures and deliver something truly unique, and with many different framing devices, narration styles, and temporal and nonlinear complexities already employed, The Companion Chronicles has seen just about everything in one way or another. Although a framing interrogation setup is hardly the most original for Ian Potter’s ‘The Unwinding World,’ the means by which the truth beneath the daily grind of this anomalous local society in which the Doctor, Ian, Barbara, and Vicki have become enmeshed is revealed certainly are.

The Bureau of Corrections is where serious threats to the systems are sent, and the TARDIS being in the shape of a symbol used to signify local revolt initially leads to another hunt for the missing ship as so often forms the crux of these early stories. However, the incredible visual of these four characters living together in a small flat while the Doctor continues to scrawl on the walls as he adds to his observations of this culture around them is an immensely engaging one and shows a much more intimate and long-term involvement in local affairs than the televised era ever did. Through what is ultimately revealed to be rather unreliable narration of concurrent events, Vicki repeatedly tells the story stemming from the TARDIS’s arrival on this planet and the incorporation of her companions and herself into the society, each time coming closer to revealing the truth of her very proactive friends and what they are doing at this very moment.

It’s slowly revealed that this is a world where its citizens cannot imagine anything better because they cannot remember anything worse, the result of a particular substance in the food and drink that interacts with the screens throughout the society and allows those in charge to subtly alter memories and thoughts. With a failed first contact that irreparably brought out the very worst in this society, the hidden intention is to undo centuries of progress to make the next attempt more successful. Of course, toppling regimes that subversively control their people is rather par for the course for the Doctor and his companions regardless of the regime’s intentions, but the revelation that the people asked for this change because of their overwhelming guilt adds an immense extra layering to the problem at hand, and Potter wisely leaves dangling and unanswered the question about whether these people will be better off with the knowledge of their sordid past. Still, the means by which this TARDIS team goes about achieving its aim are immensely proactive for the era’s standards as Barbara furtively researches the planet’s history, Ian sabotages machinery, Vicki distracts security through reprogramming, and the Doctor organising everything while retrieving the TARDIS, but the complexity of the plan all comes together exceedingly well to deliver a cohesive and satisfying experience. This willingness to interfere on multiple fronts may be a bit more in line with later incarnations than with the Doctor’s earliest days and thus may be a bit jarring for some, but it certainly and successfully hints at and develops the burgeoning mastermind that the Doctor is becoming during his continuing travels and continuing encounters with actions he perceives as being wrong.

The city run through oppression but that also asked for that oppression is a remarkable setting, and Potter uses it to toy with expectations from beginning to end in a story that continues to push the limits of this long-standing range. With superb performances from Maureen O’Brien who gets to show a wide range of natural emotions that the narrated stylings don’t always allow as she is forced to watch events in real time and from Alix Dunmore who slowly sees the power shift to her prisoner after revealing that she is aware of the subversive activities, ‘The Unwinding World’ is a magnificent entry that shows a much more cunning and direct side of this early-era group of companions.

This post was written by

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *