Released March 2006
For a programme based around time travel, the actual concept of time is rarely explored other than as a means for setting the story and sometimes moving the plot along. In ‘Time Works,’ however, the Doctor, C’rizz, and Charley end up on a planet where the use of time is strictly regulated, a place where not a single second can be wasted.
Interestingly, everything and everyone in the present city of Industry is frozen in time, unable to move or to be moved. With every single window and doorway in the city facing the large clock tower in the middle of the city, it’s clear that time has a larger- at east symbolic- role to play in the story, and the eclectic combination of modern and ages-old technologies makes for a fascinating visual. The story truly kicks off, however, when the TARDIS trio attempts to leave the city while trying to discover what is causing the seeming lack of time, resulting in the Doctor being sent back one hour into the past while stranding his companions in the frozen present. The Doctor, confused by his new surroundings, is afforded no help by anyone because taking time out of one’s schedule to help another would be a waste and cause redundancy, leading to removal from time by the Clockwork Men.
It’s an interesting decision not to have had this story set in the Divergent Universe arc- or perhaps it was meant to be before the arrival of the new television series curtailed those plans- but writer Steve Lyons does a superb job in creating a wholly unique world that is obsessed with every second of every day. Charley and C’rizz soon discover the secret of the Clockwork Men as they guide Industry’s citizens subliminally while time is frozen with data that they’ve collected to postulate the most likely actions people will take. The story expertly weaves the stories of the Doctor trying to understand and take down the Figurehead’s regime and Charley and C’rizz’s steps into frozen time and then into the heart of Industry’s administration.
All of the leads are spectacular in this story, but Paul McGann is notably strong as a Time Lord for once operating without the faintest inkling of a plan. Trying to rescue Charley and C’rizz from the threat of time passing them by while staying within the rules of Industry, the Eighth Doctor proves adept at improvising, using a vortex shield resonator, his most distracting and pleading capabilities, and eventually even a crowbar as he struggles to stay alive and bring down the Figurehead. This is a story that relies just as heavily on the companions, though, and Charley and Crizz are both afforded plenty of time in the limelight as they are initially captured by the Clockwork Men and taken for testing to determine what their jobs should be within Industry. Their eventual flee from the Clockwork Men and their struggle to survive works well for both characters, C’rzz focused more on trying to escape than his burgeoning understanding of time and Charley refusing to quit while always looking out for her companions.
The regime in place in Industry is interesting in its own right as well. Ronald Pickup plays King Kestorian, an obviously tired man who is simply going through the motions of achieving ‘completion.’ Adrian Schiller is also strong as Prince Zanith who wants to become king and save Industry at any cost regardless of what happens to the citizens at the hands of the Clockwork Men. The deaths they both allowed in the name of ‘completion’ is a telling characteristic, though the presence of the subliminally guiding Clockwork Men does raise a question as to whose fault everything truly is. As the Figurehead, ‘completion’ given voice, Tracey Childs is stellar in her brief appearance. The rest of the supporting cast is quite strong as well, Beth Vyse’s Vannet making a nice companion for the separated Doctor here and Philip Edgerley and Merryn Owen doing throughout.
‘Time Works’ may not have the most exciting title, but the story contained within is certainly one of Big Finish’s strongest with the Eighth Doctor. It offers a clever perspective on the modern world so obsessed with efficiency and its general populace suffering from overwork and underappreciation, but it’s the general story itself that will demand listeners’ attention right to the end.