Time Apart

Posted in Audio by - August 03, 2020
Time Apart

Released July 2020

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

Big Finish’s latest anthology release, Time Apart, finds the Fifth Doctor separated from his companions and looking to find support and consolation through the history of Earth.

Steve Lyons opens this release with ‘Ghost Station’ and Peter Meier patrolling the border of East Berlin far beneath the streets in an old underground station. Something very dark has happened in this claustrophobic locale that is more than befitting of its nickname, and although some of the dialogue between the Doctor and Peter is a little rushed and unnatural in order to facilitate plot development within the limited time constraints, Timothy Blore is magnificent as this layered individual who is slowly coming to realize the truth of the situation that so implicitly affects him. Lyons makes the most of this evocative setting and the emotional turmoil of this man caught between his desires for a new life and his sense of responsibility in his current life, and the calming but slightly ominous presence of Peter Davison’s Fifth Doctor who gradually leads Peter to the truth makes for a brilliant pairing that easily carries the narrative to and beyond its surprising twist. A one-part story such as this can be forgiven for slightly uneven pacing and a resolution that comes about a bit too quickly, but the soundscape and performances are absolutely magnificent, and the attention to detail in bringing the immediate and distant aspects of this locale to life are superb, creating a strong precedent for the remaining stories to strive to match and surpass.

In Jacqueline Rayner’s ‘The Bridge Master,’ the Doctor initially brushes off as medieval superstition local villagers sacrificing his shadow. When he begins to grow weak, however, he suddenly finds himself in a race against time to uncover the truth behind the bridge master’s curse. While there is little doubt that an alien device is ultimately behind these strange occurrences, the surprising morality tale that unfolds as memories and motivations come to the forefront more than compensates for a fairly straightforward trajectory. Kate Harbour, Wayne Clement, and Timothy Blore add a surprising amount of emotion to this affair as the curse’s effects are discussed and uncovered, and the genuine goodness of humanity that counterbalances the bad allows the Doctor plenty of opportunity to espouse his own beliefs as he gives even the most selfish individual the opportunity to live up to the standards that peers have set. Having the Doctor affected here is a nice change of pace from the preceding story and gives an extra sense of tension to a mystery that relies as much on the Doctor’s ability to notice small details as on the words and experiences of others, and Davison excels as the Doctor keeps a fairly open mind while looking to put these superstitions into context. While maybe not quiet as emotionally resonant as the starkness of the opening story, ‘The Bridge Master’ confidently keeps the momentum going with another engaging one-part tale.

In his first and tragically only story for Big Finish after passing away from cancer shortly after submitting his first draft, Tommy Donbavand in ‘What Lurks Down Under’ takes the Doctor to the waves of the Indian Ocean aboard the Lady Juliana where all of the prisoners but one have fallen into a trance. Only thirteen years old and the youngest convict being sent to Australia aboard this ship, Mary Wade is an intriguing historical figure for the Doctor to cross paths with, especially given her importance to the founding of the country in ensuing years and generations. Wisely, Donbavand writes her and Laura Aikman performs her as a sharp and intelligent young woman who always retains an open mind even as she fears for what her future abroad may hold, and with the Doctor’s help she quickly surmises what the root cause of the affliction must be while coming to accept the extraterrestrial elements in play. Indeed, it’s Mary’s honesty and humility as she bravely stands up for humanity itself by accepting blame and finding a common ground that provides the emotional core to this story, and it would be easy to see this woman filling the role of companion on a more regular basis should the opportunity arise given how ably she handles herself here. However, this is a story in which the Doctor knows far more than he reveals, and it’s never quite fully explained why he takes such a hands-off approach while leaving Mary to find her own way with the potential consequences so high, especially given how adamantly he refuses to take her on as a companion. Nonetheless, the strong setting and positive portrayal of this historical figure highlight the true potential of this author and his love for the series as a whole.

The Dancing Plague is one of history’s most interesting unexplained events, and the Doctor finds himself squarely in the middle of the ensuing interpersonal chaos and paranoia within Strasburg in Kate Thorman’s ‘The Dancing Plague.’ Groups of people endlessly dancing with no expression of happiness is a haunting and evocative backdrop, and the heightened emotions of those bearing witness to the events with no explanation provides the perfect conflict for the Doctor who typically has all of the answers. With human nature being what it is, it’s perhaps no surprise how easily public opinion can be swayed as the locals eagerly look for any reasoning to latch onto, and the presence of an outsider who appears unaffected certainly provides the perfect conduit for that simmering helplessness and yearning to manifest. Davison once more excels as the Doctor here becomes the subject of scrutiny while attempting to help as much as he can, and Wayne Forester and Kate Harbour excellently allow the internal and external conflicts to develop in equal measure. The conclusion is again a bit rushed without any ground-breaking revelations as in all of these one-part adventures, but the haunting central mystery and its effects on the populace conclude this four-part look at the Doctor separated from his companions but still meeting strong individuals in a suitably strong manner.

This post was written by

Leave a Reply

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

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.