Vienna Series Two

Posted in Audio by - March 05, 2018
Vienna Series Two

Released February 2015

The first series of Vienna proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that Chase Masterson’s charismatic bounty hunter could anchor a run of continuing adventures, using her quick-thinking and forward-thinking nature to always remain in control in a universe obsessed with memories, perception, and hidden motives. Series two flips the script, not content to simply continue in its predecessor’s footsteps, revealing Vienna Salvatori in a most unexpected position while embroiled in another perplexing mystery.

‘Tabula Rasa’ by James Goss begins the second series as Vienna wakes up in a hotel room next to a man she cannot remember, though in truth neither can remember anything about their situation or respective identities at all. There is some great fun to be had as the two reluctantly wonder if they are perhaps together despite their instant revulsion for each other, and Chase Masterson and Harry Ditson have an easy chemistry together that enhances the repartee and emotions to great effect throughout the story as memories slowly return. Surrounded by the other occupants of the personality hotel who likewise cannot remember who they are or why they are here as well as the computed voice of the hotel that never seems to be quite as helpful as it thinks, the two must slowly piece together the mystery of the found dead body with less than full faculties and resources.

Vienna has already proven to be a series that is remarkably adept at utilizing a small cast to make the situation and scope seem much bigger than they otherwise might, and ‘Tabula Rasa’ is certainly no exception. Indeed, even with the focus remaining on just a few select individuals within the hotel and a police officer on the outside who informs the duo that both work for the police, the man Chief Doran Curtis and Vienna a hired consultant to handle the search for a psychomorph who is seeking to climb the social ladder by taking over the roles of more powerful and influential people, the notion of potentially anyone being the criminal and of the psychomorph being trapped because of the lack of personality and memory currently around it creates an immense sense of unease and tension as blame is cast in all directions with increasingly complex theories as to motivations and identities. ‘Tabula Rasa’ provides an opportunity for the raw essence of Vienna to come to the forefront without the help of advanced technology or foreknowledge at this particular point in time, and her resourcefulness, intelligence, and determination absolutely shine as she finds a most fitting resolution.

In the first true bit of continuity for the series, Vienna with her memories restored remains on the CrimeCorp force in ‘Underworld’ by Cavan Scott, here teaming with the jaded Lieutenant Jexie Reagan to explore a rash of violent outbursts by innocent citizens in the Undercity. Regan is more inflexible and irascible than Vienna, but Samantha Beart softens the character’s edge with a sense of caring and amiability to make her immensely likeable regardless, and she quickly forms an obvious bond with Masterson that easily shows in the comradely but professional and nuanced relationship between the two police investigators. As a lost face from Reagan’s past resurfaces and cortex inhibition and memory manipulation become vital to the plot, ‘Underworld’ becomes a fitting introduction to Reagan and an intriguing look at how Vienna’s solo lifestyle of the past will sway into a more partner-based means in the future.

Scott excels in creating a rich cyberpunk backdrop that comes to life as a breathing entity, and the danger that lurks within the Undercity’s every shadow is palpable as the massive extent to which corruption and power struggles pervade its streets is relayed. It’s quite shocking just how much one will sacrifice and just how far against character one will go given the proper pressures and circumstances, but the motivations for and ramifications of decisions made are thankfully meaningfully discussed to keep the threat grounded in a semblance of emotional reality. Vienna’s continuing exploration into the Undercity also results in arguably the greatest personal danger she has been in yet, and Masterson plays this scene immeasurably well, dropping the character’s usual glibness to fervently suggest the true peril of her plight. With an impressive appearance by Duncan Wisbey Detective Guy Wilkes to help anchor affairs, the noir police procedural with a more stable Vienna at the forefront is another genre in which this expanding range can claim to have succeeded.

The set closes with a look into just how Vienna came to be part of CrimeCorp in Jonathan Morris’s ‘The Vienna Experience,’ a story in which the head of the company reveals that he has begun secretly implanting microchips into people in various walks of life to both watch and listen to what they experience and to subtly alter their thought processes and actions without drawing undue attention to the implant, Vienna herself being one of the unknowing subjects and led to join CrimeCorp as a result. Of course, while intentions right now are seemingly quite benign for someone in power, centred on providing entertainment and in some cases profit, Carlos Van Meyer makes no secret of the fact that the technology could be used to make someone act against his or her will and to record certain illicit activities for blackmailing purposes, calling into question just how far someone with that fearsome ability would be willing to go to achieve a desired outcome

As Vienna’s investigations progress and a mysterious figure in a motorbike helmet appears while strange blackouts appear on Vienna’s implant feed, the story morphs into something completely unexpected that shows just how tightly interwoven the three instalments of this set truly are. Nigel Carrington gives a measured but powerful performance as a man used to being completely in control who finds himself a victim of the unknown as investigations circle in on him, but the means by which this occurs are wholly unexpected as the climax and resolution serve directly as an extended coda to ‘Tabula Rasa’ while even tying in the actions of Wilkes in ‘Underworld.’ There’s a moment where it initially seems that this finale will rehash the plot of the series one finale to some extent, but Vienna’s unanticipated involvement in recent affairs makes excellent use of a plot device introduced back in the hotel and fits in perfectly with her uncanny ability to shift the odds into her favour and outmanoeuvre those who expect to have the upper hand. The ultimate resolution is telegraphed quite early on, but this at least provides a perfectly logical means of defeating the surprising foe while also giving Vienna a means of amplifying her personal reputation without having to perform the drastic actions attributed to her.

Vienna continues to highlight intelligent writing that logically subverts expectations over and over again. With Chase Masterson firmly in control of the captivating and intelligent bounty hunter who is deftly able to handle whatever comes her way, there is assuredly plenty of life left in this intriguing series that boasts a tone all its own. Without knowing if this type of tightly-linked set that fleshes out earlier stories as the finale progresses is the approach to be taken going forward or simply a successful one-off experiment, it works to great effect here, and the addition of a permanent companion for Vienna to play off instead of interacting just with passing guest characters and her ship’s computer should subtly change the dynamic to further allow true exploration of the inner emotional workings and thoughts of this fascinating and haughty bounty hunter that rest beneath her momentous actions.

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