Cataclysm

Posted in Audio by - May 15, 2021
Cataclysm

Released May 2021

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

Following on directly from ‘Sphere of Freedom,’ ‘Cataclysm’ sees the TARDIS thrust into the path of a neutron star housing creatures that devour everything in their path while Nova finds herself displaced on a forested world filled with robots that seem to want to wipe her mind. The Time Eddies are out of control, but although the Doctor is quick to blame Audrey and her business practices for the impending end of the universe, it just might be the Doctor himself who is ultimately at fault.

From the start, it’s apparent that ‘Cataclysm’ is a story filled with immense ambition and scope, though the limited running time does mean that many of these are only superficially touched upon without full development. Perhaps the most prominent example of this regards the Battle of Waterloo that suddenly features weaponry from beyond its natural time, but it also extends to Nova’s own situation with robots looking to remove malign particles, an element that at least appears to gain retrospective prominence at this story’s cliffhanger ending. It remains to be seen if that importance will be part of a grander plan that brought Nova to that particular time and place or simply a measure of plot convenience, but the groundwork appears to be in place for a fight against the malign Ravagers who now have all of time and space within their destructive reach.

And although the sound design isn’t quite as strong here as in the preceding story precisely because of the many locales it tries to bring to life in quick succession, ‘Cataclysm’ unquestionably succeeds in highlighting the strong chemistry between Christopher Eccleston and Camilla Beeput. This is the story in which Nova truly becomes a companion, experiencing the TARDIS for the first time and seeing the true potential of what traveling with the Doctor can offer. Nova is intelligent, incisive, and imaginative, and although those traits do result in the Doctor showing a modicum of suspicion given his recent experiences with Audrey, she certainly has already shown all of the requisite characteristics to potentially stand amongst the Doctor’s finest friends with further time and development. At the very least, her incorporation into the underlying theme of the working class’s plight is an undoubted strength, and although the Doctor’s more lighthearted tone here is a bit jarring compared to the more sombre figure he struck on screen later in his life when further removed from the Time War, Christopher Eccleston continues to excel with a profoundly dramatic performance that more than capably conveys the genuine danger of this situation in which his Doctor is fallible and anything but all-knowing.

Indeed, the unexpected revelation that the Doctor has inadvertently crossed his own timeline due to the time eddies is a brilliant twist that puts the character into rarely-explored territory given the sense of personal responsibility it adds to his already incredible moral fortitude. The concluding story will reveal whether or not his survivor’s guilt once more rears its head as the universe’s end approaches, but having the hero one step behind Jayne McKenna’s Audrey as the ostensible villain while also delving into her past to reveal more about her world and how she came to be where she is when the Doctor first meets her is a strength of the script that wonderfully intertwines the two figures while leaving much more room to explore. The middle of three closely interlinked stories is always a difficult position to fill, and while some elements seem somewhat superfluous and others somewhat ill-developed to this point, there are plenty of narrative strengths fueled by profound performances that result in a genuinely dramatic escalation by the time the closing theme plays.

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