The Waters of Amsterdam

Posted in Audio by - February 06, 2016
The Waters of Amsterdam

The 2016 main range of releases kicks off with ‘The Waters of Amsterdam,’ a story that picks up directly from the events portrayed in the televised ‘Arc of Infinity.’ Rid of the threat of Omega, Tegan has decided to rejoin Tegan and the Doctor aboard the TARDIS, but her past is about to catch up with her.

‘The Waters of Amsterdam’ is an interesting release in that it plays with expectations before really kicking into gear. The initial premise is that Tegan’s ex-boyfriend, Kyle, runs into her in Amsterdam, setting up expectations that this will be a character study for Tegan and more of a fpersonal drama than the classic series normally afforded its companion characters. While, indeed, Janet Fielding is afforded a lot of the focus as the story of Kyle is revealed through a montage of flashbacks- and fortunately the character is portrayed fairly favourably given the circumstances-, this ultimately only proves to be a stepping stone as the story proper starts to assert itself. As it happens, Kyle has also brought to the Doctor’s attention a series of Rembrandt ‘Vessels of the Stars’ works that accurately portray schematics for spaceships.

Cue episode two where, after an attack by members of an aqueous race known as the Nix, the tone and setting completely change. Never one to leave a mystery unsolved, the Doctor takes Tega, Nyssa, and Kyle back to Rembrandt’s time. Solely by focusing on an artist, this is sure to draw comparisons with ‘Vincent and the Doctor,’ and while both stories provide fascinating insight into the inner psyche of the artists, the role of the characters could not be more different. Whereas Van Gogh truly was the crux of the episode, Rembrandt is more of an entry point for, again, another tonal shift as the bigger underlying plot is revealed. Regardless, Richard James is excellent in the role and lends a sense of tragedy and personability to the overtly troubled and cantankerous Rembrandt.

Not a flaw or fault, this is a fairly straightforward story, albeit one littered with glorious visuals. The antagonstic Countess is brought to life wonderfully by Elizabeth Morton, amply providing the rage, cunning, and twisted nefariousness necessary for the role. This is one of the rare instances where the villain actually succeeds with a vengeful plan- at least temporarily- and the brief glimpse afforded the TARDIS crew of a ‘modern’ 1983 Earth that has advanced to the point of interstellar travel and space fleets is a fantastic scene to imagine.

Unsurprisingly, the introduction of Kyle bears substantial relevance as the story progresses, and while it could be expected that things were not as they appeared at face value, Tim Delap is superb in delivering a man conflicted by emotions and love, trying to do what he knows is best. The scenes between Tegan and Kyle are excellently acted and quickly bring a sense of realness to a relationship so quickly brought to the forefront. It was a bold move to focus on this otherwise unknown relationship, but the end results pay off admirably and, in the process, give Tegan a bit more time to further explore her character.

All in all, then, ‘The Waters of Amsterdam’ is a strong entry, technically sound and featuring strong performances from both the leads and the guest cast. While Nyssa is understandably in the background moreso than usual, Peter Davison continues to deliver a strong performace as a slightly wearier Fifth Doctor. The threat presented is a credible one, and one that offers a great glimpse at an alternate timeline, but it seems like a missed opportunity that the Nix were not featured more prominently after so much promotion and setup. The pacing of the story is a bit off as well, spending a lot of the allotted time focusing on events that only served as entry points for the actual plotline, but the end result is an overall positive one. While it is unlikely that Kyle will be making a return, he made a good imprint on Tegan and the story as a whole, undergoing a trying- if predictable- turmoil as he struggled to do the right thing.

Not an overly complicated tale, ‘The Waters of Amsterdam’ successfully captures the feel of the times with an enjoyable tale that finally gives Tegan some time in the limelight.

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