Crossed Lines

Posted in Audio by - April 07, 2022
Crossed Lines

Released April 2022


Since crashing into 2020 London to begin the Stranded saga, the Doctor and his companions have found humanity to be doomed amidst an altered and bleak future for the universe. Desperately trying to escape and mend the paradoxical events before him as the final set of stories begins with Matt Fitton’s ‘Crossed Lines,’ the Doctor heads back to Baker Street to interrupt a most crucial journey for the young Robin Bright-Thompson while his friends once more seek out the Curator for help.

Using a variety of high-concept, abstract ideas, ‘Crossed Lines’ begins to explain the circumstances that have allowed Stranded to unfold, the broken TARDIS crashing and literally splintering the timelines and the entire web of time rather than coalescing the timelines around it. This is the story of the Doctor traveling months into the past to try to reconcile with Robin given what he has seen this boy become and do far in the future after associating with Divine Intervention, but the normal rules of the universe do not apply within this paradox, and the Curator- now in the guise of an elderly Colin Baker- is all too willing to divulge the necessary information to Liv and Tania while Tania’s own past changes in real time. With the Void threatening to consume them all, Baker gives a beguiling performance as this much more straightforward version of the Curator than the enigmatic Tom Baker visage that has preceded him in this set, and this wise onlooker who is not explicitly involved in events like the Doctor but who is certainly able to steer them while providing just enough of an impetus to his companions is a delight that deftly delivers the necessary exposition that quite fittingly ends with a story jointly told with the Doctor about a hermit that so clearly lays out his motivations. Revealing more about the Curator by switching personas could have easily fallen apart as nothing more than a cheap gimmick, but the change was essential to finally allow someone in the Doctor’s orbit to more completely understand what has happened and just how much can still change, and it will certainly be intriguing to see how this mysterious character continues to develop and evolve through Big Finish’s many ranges.

The symbolic intersection of physical and metaphorical journeys that the train represents is deftly incorporated, and the many references to Gallifrey, the Time Lords, and even the Untempered Schism truly gives this story- and by extension this series- a more profound weightiness. However, precisely because this story is so laden with exposition that at times waxes quite lyrical, ‘Crossed Lines’ never quite manages to obtain any sense of genuine urgency despite the very real threat of this universe finally ceasing to be. It’s a necessary sacrifice given all of the information revealed, and perhaps none is quite so vital as Mr Bird being an elder version of Robin who has been keeping eyes on the Doctor’s many journeys. There were some mentions of Mr Bird in the earlier sets following ‘Must-See TV,’ and while the twist itself is fairly predictable and one the Doctor realizes he should have picked up on, cementing the fact is sure to further shape the remaining stories as the interlinked journey between the Doctor and Robin continues to escalate at all points. Robin himself still hasn’t proven to be the most dynamic character, but this elder version instantly adds a greater gravitas and sense of scope to the character while reminding everyone of just how much Robin has been through over the millennia due to his artificially extended life.

As expected, Paul McGann is superb as the Doctor attempts to make differences both big and small to better affect and avoid the devastation he has witnessed, and the Doctor’s continued hopeful optimism throughout his emotional turmoil is a highlight that becomes all the more resonant as he turns his focus to a lost friend when realizing just how he can affect change. Nicola Walker and Hattie Morahan are each engaging as well as Liv and Helen help to drive this split temporal narrative, but Rebecca Root truly becomes a standout here as Tania’s past changes and her present self must suffer through the anguish of that changing reality and ensuing flood of new memories. This is a palpable means of emphasizing the ability for change within this system and provides an intriguing avenue of possibilities for Robin and everyone else in this increasingly alien strand of time. There’s a tremendous amount of visuals and information in ‘Crossed Lines’ that will naturally prove vital to this saga’s coming resolution, and while the story does occasionally lack momentum in order to divulge that information, it’s a genuinely profound and resonant instalment that kicks off Stranded 4 on a distinct high.

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