Wirrn Dawn

Posted in Audio by - September 20, 2017
Wirrn Dawn

Released June 2009

With the Doctor and Lucie seemingly settled once more into their familiar roles as friendly traveling companions following the upheaval that began this third season of The Eighth Doctor Adventures in ‘Orbis,’ the two find themselves suddenly thrust into the middle of one of humanity’s bloodiest periods where even assured death is not the worst possible outcome. Separated from the TARDIS as the returning Wirrn literally eat away at human ships around them, their only hope of survival is improvisation and hope.

It’s no secret that this series has no qualms about revisiting classic foes and ideas, and the little-explored Wirrn first seen in ‘The Ark in Space’ are a fantastic addition to the audio medium. With little time for explanation, Lucie is rightly appalled by the brutal carnage before her as the Wirrn and the Galsec colonists continue their merciless battles. Indeed, the first several minutes easily pass by with a flurry of action that highlights just how visual this means of storytelling can be. However, the greater theme of the story comes with an element of the Wirrn only mentioned briefly in the past, the fact that the Wirrn use other hosts for their gestation cycle and take on the characteristics and intelligence of that specific being. With a human being chosen as the next queen’s host, the moral dilemma regarding whether to allow nature to take its course- in so doing hoping that the element of imbued humanity will allow a cessation of the fight against humanity- or to save the innocent victim takes an emotionally resounding centre stage.

This strong moral conflict, however, also strangely draws into focus the extreme variability in pacing. After the frenetic start, the story does ebb and flow both in terms of action and pacing since the majority of the dilemma is presented through simple discussions between characters with little else going on. This in itself is not a problem, and the content is certainly fascinating enough to warrant the extended time afforded it, but not enough is known about the characters involved to make them more than broad stereotypes and to thus lend the needed emotional weight to their opinions and actions. Whether by extending the running time to allow a few more crucial personal scenes early on or by sacrificing the large-scale action piece at the beginning, the balance between portions could be a bit tighter to create an overall more seamless experience. Still, taken as two wholly distinctive elements, the action and the discussion portions are both very well written and realised and exemplify the range and scope of the franchise as a whole.

While it’s a bit strange to see the Doctor opt to simply let nature takes its course while hoping his instincts are correct, the previous groundwork put in place by discussing the actions of the indigenous people long ago during their survived confrontations with the Wirrn does provide a perfectly valid and logical explanation for why he does so. While it’s likely that this type of decision will be a one-off rather than a sign of continuing change for the Doctor after his time on Orbis, it’s always nice to see known characters take a slightly unexpected path while still remaining true to themselves. As a whole, though, ‘Wirrn Dawn’ is an exceptionally ambitious tale that explores the Wirrn in greater depth than ever before with emotions high on both sides of the battle as change takes hold. With a great supporting cast and direction bolstered by an immensely evocative sound design, ‘Wirrn Dawn’ makes a tremendous impact in the moment even if its overall balance keeps it from reaching the greatest heights.

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