The White Room

Posted in Audio by - November 09, 2018
The White Room

Released February 2014

Following an intriguing departure from the Dark Eyes narrative of Molly O’Sullivan that featured so prominently in the first box set to begin the second, the bold World War I VAD gloriously steps back into the limelight in ‘The White Room’ by Alan Barnes. Now on Baker Street back in London, Molly continues with her chosen vocation of helping those in need, but when the Doctor suddenly careens back into her life, a dangerous scheme that has been quietly developing around her suddenly bursts forth, and only the mysterious Surgeon General can provide the needed answers.

Quite wondrously, Molly is quick to point out that she is perfectly happy with her life when the Doctor reappears, ensuring he understands that she has been not idly sitting about pining for his return. However, her obvious happiness upon initially seeing him quickly dissipates when her eyes again turn to their famed dark hue that coincides with the reactivation of the retrogenitor particles that should no longer exist. As time begins to go haywire around the two once again, it’s clear from the start that Molly has retained her wherewithal and calm composure to handle any strangeness thrown at her, and Ruth Bradley effortlessly imbues a more relaxed and open nature to her character while Paul McGann and she instantly rekindle the immense chemistry they so wondrously crafted over their previous four stories together.

As with ‘The Traitor,’ ‘The White Room’ puts the Doctor in more of a background role, still allowing him to definitively influence events but very much putting the focus on his dynamic female counterpart. Indeed, the Doctor has rarely had to so little to set the central conflict in action as his simple appearance in the TARDIS along with its artron energy activates a temporal virus, one that allows them to step back through time when in contact with the affected Shaun as certain events take on a repetitive nature around them. As Doctor Herbert Goring carries out his research on a plague farm built upon an old plague well, the facilities provide the perfect working outpost for a Viyran who has itself been infected and thrust into this location and who now seeks to draw the attention of its compatriots to its whereabouts so far in their relative past. The Viyrans are easily one of the most effective audio creations that Big Finish has yet introduced to the worlds of Doctor Who, and it’s wonderful to see their cunning and mercilessness continue to develop even in a more standalone nature, especially as a prelude to Charlotte Pollard again featuring alongside them in the debut of her own series. Rather cleverly, the fear that the Viyrans may just destroy all life on the planet to eradicate this virus after the Doctor suggests that it may have already spread globally due to human contact and travel is neatly circumvented by the Doctor reminding the Viyran of just who patient zero is as the truth behind viral remains that first drew the Viyran to this time and location become known.

By necessity in order to reunite the Doctor with Molly, ‘The White Room’ relies on quite a bit of coincidence regarding Doctor Goring’s vocation and location that the Viyran is able to assume control of as Molly’s apparent immunity draws its focus. Nonetheless, the end result is another auditory delight that rewards long-term Big Finish fans with several returning elements from previous releases spanning multiple ranges while still taking the time to adequately but not cumbersomely explaining those same elements to those only familiar with the events of Dark Eyes. Barnes works under the assumption that Molly’s backstory from the previous set is a known quantity at this time, and this helps to create the sense that this truly is a burgeoning epic that will only continue to develop more and more. ‘The White Room’ is just about as far removed from ‘The Traitor’ as a story can be in every regard, and at least yet the exact reason for this particular viral-based story is unknown beyond reuniting the two leads, but that wild variability instills a true element of unpredictability to this second set as questions are still left unanswered but anticipation remains high going into the second half.

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