Conspiracy in Space

Posted in Audio by - October 25, 2021
Conspiracy in Space

Released October 2021

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

From the introduction of the honourable Draconians to the final appearance of Roger Delgado, ‘Frontier in Space’ and the featured treaty in place between Earth and Draconia in the far future are notable and memorable for many reasons. As Big Finish’s The Third Doctor Adventures Volume 08 begins, writer Alan Barnes revisits the world of that classic and sprawling space opera with ‘Conspiracy in Space.’

Where ‘Conspiracy in Space’ most succeeds is with instantly recapturing the fraught tension between the two worlds at a time when war seems inevitable. The Draconian army is on high alert and rumours of a super-weapon continue to spread, and the Doctor and Jo all too quickly find themselves in a difficult situation when they appear on Draconia without notice. The honour, conviction, and even arrogance of the Draconian race are on full display as the hawkish Lady Zinn looks to maintain her power and stature, and manoeuvring through that code of honour brings its own challenges for the heroes who soon find themselves unwitting and unwilling participants in a deadly mission. However, while there is little doubt regarding the formidability of the Draconian race and their rich traditions even as the Doctor chooses to remain coy about his own nobility, Lieutenant Ruji proves to be a strong addition to the story that allows for a more nuanced approach to the Draconian race by exploring preconceptions and assumptions about honour. Imogen Church, Issy Van Randwyck, and Sam Stafford all give strong performances to highlight the full spectrum of the Draconians that, despite being such a fundamentally important part of Earth’s space-faring conquest, have remained relatively unexplored beyond the incredible honour at its core.

With galactic tensions this high, the script’s chosen threat to potentially break enduring peace is a suitably grandiose one that relies heavily on science fiction elements. While the threat of the magnetoid does ultimately rely a little too much on dialogue to actually explain how this prospect could be made and what it can do, there is little denying how powerful such an object could be. It’s an immense visual around which to base a more monotonous discussion about mining concessions and what the Interplanetary Mining Corporation would become part of, and although the resolution is a bit too easy with a reliance on a trusted Third Doctor trope, Aurora Burghart’s Emerald is a fittingly strong and ruthless presence to challenge the Doctor on multiple levels.

Unsurprisingly, Tim Treloar is on top form throughout; while the opening scene does seem just a bit too aggressively written despite the sometimes-tenuous relationship that exists between the Brigadier and the Third Doctor, there is simply no questioning or doubting Treloar’s expert ability to capture the spirit and energy of this beloved incarnation of the Doctor no matter any given scene’s location and requisite emotion. Likewise, Katy Manning easily steps back into her younger self’s shoes to bring the vivacious and brave Jo Grant to life once more. The camaraderie these two have developed over the years for Big Finish is immense, and though each is equally strong when apart from the other as multiple plotlines slowly converge to a bombastic finale, that infectious chemistry continues to be a highlight of the range that firmly entrenches these stories within their intended eras. Although ‘Conspiracy in Space’ doesn’t delve into the political intrigue as much as ‘Frontier in Space’ despite its strong development of the female component of Draconian society, this space opera’s titular conspiracy and the lengths all involved will go to succeed with their individual plans complement the superb leading duo with a strong pace and supporting cast to highlight just how versatile this audio range can be.

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