Tick-Tock World

Posted in Audio by - February 01, 2019
Tick-Tock World

Released January 2019

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

The First Doctor era of classic Doctor Who is unquestionably the most experimental and brave both stylistically and narratively, exploring the potential ramifications of dimensions and time with surprising and high-concept tales that complemented the historical outings perfectly and still resonate to this day. In this grand tradition, Guy Adams’s ‘Tick-Tock World’ opens with the TARDIS meeting disaster and its occupants stranded on a bizarre and desolate world somewhere between space and time.

The script and sound design perfectly play up the strange and ethereal nature of this world and its eclectic structures that appear so ill-placed, and the three companions not knowing how they arrived or just where the Doctor is lends an immense sense of tension and unease to proceedings right from the start. Yet as discussions turn to jumping time tracks and potential nuclear fallout given the state of the environment around them, an impassioned warning from a ghost of Ian that they need to escape or die adds an intriguing personal element to the danger around them while only hinting at the unique qualities of this locale that is likewise haunted by other incorporeal figures fluidly moving out of sync with the surroundings as well as destructively scavenging creatures with a hunger that knows no bounds.

With just a few minimal exceptions, the pacing overall allows the mystery to unfold at a satisfying pace that makes the most of this unique environment, and the few desperate survivors hiding among the ruins help to develop the dangers this team now faces while presenting wholly new ones as well. There’s a nice dichotomy within this group between those looking to ally with the newcomers to search for an escape and Nocta remaining distrustful and seeking to ensure her own safety foremost both offensively through weaponry and defensively through a zero cabinet that keeps her safe from the creatures that ravage the landscape. As Ian learns of a more modern take on personal relationships than what he is used to, Nocta eventually goes a step too far when threatening the travelers, resulting in a not-too-subtle confrontation with Ian that perfectly exemplifies his sense of responsibility for his friends and his fierce and determined loyalty to them.

The Doctor arguably has the most intriguing storyline as he is swallowed whole and suddenly finds himself surrounded by other versions of himself who continue to wink out of existence before him. This is a wonderfully visual concept that allows the Doctor to confront his own pride, strengths, and shortcomings as he tries to piece together the truth of this locale and his own impending death, but it’s the manifestation before him of a mysterious woman who had seemed so intangible before that provides this story with its most enduring notion. The advertising campaign for this set boldly proclaimed that Carole Ann Ford, the original Susan, would be involved in some capacity, and the mysterious and knowledgeable woman who can seemingly will herself between dimensions is another incredible idea that provides a strong central link to the many dangers at hand. It will likely come as little surprise to most when this figure is revealed to be Susan as well, but it’s this blunt revelation that allows her rather sharp criticisms of the Doctor’s attitudes to resonate all the more profoundly. The Doctor is fiercely protective of his granddaughter, to the point that he doesn’t always listen to her because he believes he knows best, but Susan forcing him to confront his own actions and the effects they can have on this young woman who is so brave and intelligent in her own right is a brilliant sequence that Ford and Bradley play perfectly to reveal an oft-shrouded aspect of the Doctor.

Indeed, ‘Tick-Tock World’ ranks among Susan’s best and most impactful outings in all of Doctor Who, but the incredible performance of Ford is still somewhat jarring when placed beside Claudia Grant’s interpretation of the character. This inclusion is clearly meant to be a celebration of the character and actress who have both been so important to the Doctor and the franchise, but this range has been one to quite boldly celebrate its differences from the original run as much as its similarities, meaning that there’s something of a muddled message delivered by bringing the two versions of Susan together here, especially since Bradley himself plays the other versions of the Doctor encountered. And although the immense growth is somewhat minimized by story’s end as the Doctor forgets his time with this elder version, his acceptance of his companions’ offer of help and of Susan’s plans to escape is nonetheless a powerful moment for the Doctor and the development of this team as a whole.

Without question, ‘Tick-Tock World’ absolutely captures the bravery with story and tone that the early First Doctor era so often showed. In a story filled with so many strong ideas, there are inevitably some that aren’t quite fully explored with Nocta’s defeat also coming quite suddenly despite matching her general outlook on life perfectly, but this is a fascinating experience from beginning to end that provides immense developmental moments for each of the leads and proves to be a particular highlight for the enduring legacy that Susan has created throughout the ages.

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