Dark Gallifrey: Morbius Part One

Posted in Audio by - April 04, 2024
Dark Gallifrey: Morbius Part One

Released April 2024


Big Finish is no stranger to providing villainous figures their own time in the limelight to showcase their formative years as with Davros or simply to further delve into the havoc they so often wreak as with the various incarnations of the Master. Over the course of eight massive trilogies, Dark Gallifrey will spotlight some of the most chaotic, ruthless, and roguish Time Lords that Gallifrey has every produced. Morbius takes centre stage in Tim Foley’s first set of three stories, and in Morbius Part One the Time Lord battleship Proteus has just left victorious from Karn, undertaking an unexpectedly dangerous journey home under the stewardship of a sick captain as tensions grow and nefarious forces amass.

In something of a strange marketing decision given Big Finish’s obvious preference over recent years to release box sets of stories under a common banner, Dark Gallifrey’s stories will continue to be released in individual monthly instalments. While that does not and should not change the type of story being told in an introductory instalment, it does make the fact that so much of this story is exposition all the more glaring since there is very little payoff here as pieces are set in motion and in position for the next two. Nonetheless, this dive into the far past of Gallifrey at a time immediately following the revolutionary Morbius’s defeat when supporters remain devout while detractors decry his obvious madness is a strong one. The concept of regeneration is still new to this civilization and is only imparted upon those deemed worthy through superior service or other actions, itself a source of consternation amongst certain individuals as thoughts about measures of worthiness for such a prize creep into everyday conversations as frustrations continue to mount. Even the notion of developing a second heart following regeneration perfectly tie into the complicated nuances of Doctor Who lore going back to the early years of the programme, and the distinct visual of a vortex damaged in this war that must slowly be skimmed rather than traveled through only further amplifies the claustrophobic sea-faring tone aimed for even if certain sound effects chosen to evoke that type of setting do seem somewhat out of place in space.

Of course, not every motivation is revealed, and Foley does well to present a well-rounded cast of characters to make these shrinking confines and the threat of Morbius palpable and dynamic even with the superb Samuel West fairly sparsely used as the titular and wildly influential foe here. Lara Lemon’s Sister of Karn, Gilda, who joins the journey at the last moment is perhaps the most intriguing character here as she undertakes her task of providing the ill Captain Argento with limited quantities of the famed elixir to help, slowly getting to know both those in command and those serving and finding a quiet confidence to question certain goings-on and to ask about helping the mysterious shimmering man they come upon on their trip given the information he just may hold. Rachel Atkins likewise gives a strong performance as the proud captain who so obviously cares about her crew but is struggling both with her own health and with how to handle the diminishing dimensions of her ship and the tensions mounting among her crew as the fact that their journey will be much longer that initially anticipated can no longer be kept secret. Atkins handles an incredible range of emotions deftly, and Hywel Morgan as Mr Middlewitch provides a strong foundation as someone who is so connected to the crew for her to confront and react to so instinctively.

Morbius Part One is very much a slow burn focused more on introducing ideas and concepts rather than providing answers or even truly introducing the true power and scope of Morbius, but it still manages to present a gripping and atmospheric locale and an engrossing core cast of characters to create plenty of intrigue and anticipation for just where this trilogy may yet go in the coming months. It remains to be seen if the monthly release format will ultimately help or hinder the momentum and anticipation for this range’s stories, but Foley with a unique- if at times disjointed- narrated framing device gets off to a strong start here by hinting at just what Morbius may yet be able to attempt and achieve at this precarious and formative time in Gallifrey’s history

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