Doom’s Day: Dying Hours

Posted in Audio by - September 27, 2023
Doom’s Day: Dying Hours

Released September 2023


As part of the sixtieth anniversary celebrations for Doctor Who, the multimedia series Doom’s Day starring comedian and actress Sooz Kempner gives the eponymous time-traveling assassin just twenty-four hours told over twenty-four stories to find the Doctor and avoid literal Death. Having previously spanned digital channels, Doctor Who Magazine, Titan Comics, East Side Games, Penguin Random House, and BBC Audio, Doom’s adventures now turn to Big Finish for hours twenty to twenty-three in Dying Hours as she desperately continues to complete her missions while trying to escape what seems increasingly inevitable.

Jacqueline Rayner opens this set with ‘Dawn of an Everlasting Peace’ with Doom’s latest mission taking her to Venus in 3975 at the heralded signing of the galactic non-aggression pact. Weaving in plot elements of “The Dalek’s Master Plan,” Rayner delves into a relatively little-explored area of Doctor Who history while always evoking a perpetual sense of optimism and hope, and the core ideas of an explosive plan to undermine the peace treaty as well as of the incredible love of family that even taranium’s devastating effects cannot break capably sustain this story. Indeed, the tale of a three-year-old who has suddenly been aged to eighty and who cannot comprehend his father’s absence while his mother tries her best to adapt without ever giving up hope that she might find an answer and means of reversing this tragedy is easily one of the most emotional and gripping that Doctor Who has recently featured. It’s a shame, then, that the character of Doom is ultimately so unsatisfying in this story, the writing and performance suggesting that this assassin is anything but serious as she jokes and flaunts about even as she simultaneously proclaims the importance of her reputation as the best assassin and of minimizing any collateral damage. There is an argument to be made that Doom finds success by being underestimated, but even with shape-shifting technology and a vortex manipulator at her disposal, she seems to luck into success as much as earn it, the Zephon element of the plot proving particularly underwhelming as even the script itself calls out its contrivance. Tonally, this odd mishmash means that it’s difficult to discern if Doom is truly taking her impending fate seriously since there is little sense of urgency even with the real-time dynamic and so many obstacles and distractions being thrown in her way, and it’s thus difficult to know if Doom’s Day as a whole intends for this character to be serious or more of a caricature, but the two approaches do not happily coexist here. Still, even with such a confusing approach to its lead character’s actions and words, ‘Dawn of an Everlasting Peace’ still finds success because of everything not related to Doom, hardly stirring praise for Doom but a testament nonetheless to the strength of writing to overcome her.

‘A Date with Destiny’ by Robert Valentine, unfortunately, suggests that Doom will remain much more of an overt caricature, albeit one who pales in comparison to her rival, Destiny. As Jackie Tyler finds herself the target due to the actions of the Doctor and Rose far away, Kempner and Yasmin Bannerman create an almost unbearable relationship dripping with false platitudes and sardonic derision that wholly detracts from every scene they share. There clearly is a meaningful shared history between these two characters that has brought them to this moment on competing ends with all eyes on the future, but there is nothing grounded or believable about these interactions that again veer to a more comedic tone when a more serious one is required for this plot to resonate. Given the sloppiness of Destiny both in the present and in the past and the relative ease with which Doom can outmanoeuvre her, the intended threat and sense of rivalry from Destiny never manages to adequately develop, ultimately acting as a lengthy placeholder before Doom’s true plan and momentous actions are finally revealed at the end. However, much like Rayner before, Valentine still manages to find great success without Doom as the focus, here as Jackie again discovers the unintended consequences of being tangentially associated with the Doctor. Without question, Camille Coduri is the standout star of this story, excelling not only with providing pitch-perfect reactions to the absurdity and danger around Jackie but also with the more introspective moments in which Jackie comes to admit that she has sometimes used others to her advantage to make herself feel better amidst the pervasive loneliness of her life. Coduri has mastered the ability to blend comedy and anguish to continue to add nuance and layers to a character who is often much larger than life, and it’s this type of characterization, writing, and performance that Doom needs to become anything resembling a grounded or dynamic individual. There again is little sense of a ticking tock, and while the relationship between Jackie and Doom is suitably interesting, the character of Doom and the elements she brings with her again let down the overall experience.

Easily one of the most fascinating creatures the modern iteration of Doctor Who has introduced has been the Silence, foes that can command anyone to do their bidding but that are completely forgotten about in any other capacity the second they are out of sight. Continuing the trend of Doom’s Day, the inclusion of the Silence furtively guiding and fostering conflict within a warzone of its own making represents another truly fascinating backdrop in which Simon Clark’s ‘The Howling Wolves of Xan-Phear’ can unfold. Truly, this story shows the near limitless power that the Silence possess given how terrifyingly effectively they can command others to act at their behest even if those actions are wholly against that individual’s best interest, and while Big Finish by necessity has to elevate the vocal component of the race to compensate for the lack of the visual component, the Silence once more prove to be a wholly effective and evocative audio menace that could so easily anchor innumerable dramas if desired. Unfortunately, while the conflict is brought to life quite vividly with the combatants wholly committed to their orders even if they cannot remember exactly where they came from, the character of Doom again proves to be a problematic aspect for the script given the inherent absurdity and lack of seriousness that her tone and actions suggest. The uncovered scheme of the Silence ultimately wanting to silence the Doctor from asking the oldest question in the universe is somewhat forced, and the relative ease by which Doom can use the intonations of the titular wolves to cancel out would-be commands is somewhat underwhelming given its convenience, but these are elements that with a more grounded and realistic lead character truly selling the danger of this situation could have become much more minor quibbles. Instead, Doom continues to let down her own stories by hardly mentioning her extreme time crunch and failing to truly take events seriously or to genuinely show she is as proficient at her chosen profession as she proclaims, again relying on the supporting characters and performances as well as the brilliant core storylines to against all odds create a thoroughly engrossing experience.

Lizzie Hopley concludes Doom’s Day: The Dying Hours with ‘The Crowd’ and yet another brilliant idea with the titular Crowd being comprised of individuals who travel to known tragic events throughout time to feed off the despair. Unfortunately, as the number of remaining events has continued to decrease, these individuals have had to turn to creating their own devastating events of note, and the Eighth Doctor and Charley have become entangled in events surrounding the tragedy of Thomas Beckett in Canterbury. Fortunately for Doom who has accepted a mission to kill members of the Crowd, the Doctor is precisely the person she needs to save her from her impending death; unfortunately, she nearly kills this Eighth incarnation on the spot since her own search is for the First incarnation, and the Doctor’s outright distaste for and even detesting of Doom and everything she is and stands for creates a wonderfully unique tension for this episode that allows both Paul McGann and India Fisher to bring forth a certain nuance to their well-developed characters that is rarely seen. For better or for worse, the inclusion of the Doctor makes the character of Doom in her own series infinitely more tolerable since she is no longer controlling the narrative and has someone to keep her grounded in the severe danger and reality of her surroundings while keeping her own inclinations- for the most part- in check. Doom is still by no means a likable character and hardly becomes any more subdued, but putting her into more of a supporting role with her thoughts and actions contested as she finally succumbs to the innate pressure and fear that the imminent arrival of her death presents proves to be a much more effective approach to this character who to this point in this box set has never shown why her character or her actions should be taken seriously. Of course, Doom is still very relevant to the ultimate explosive resolution to these events as she acts without the Doctor’s knowledge and draws his further ire, and this more effectively highlights her keen and ruthless nature than anything shown in previous stories. However, due to the multiplatform nature of this sprawling saga, ‘The Crowd’ cannot offer any sort of final conclusion as the Doctor refuses to doom anyone- even Doom herself- to a certain death and follows an inking of a memory from when he crossed paths with this assassin so very long ago. As it is, this is a story that more aptly showcases how the character of Doom should be employed following the horrible clash with her characterization through writing and acting that so highly detracted from so many other strong plot elements and performances through three stories, but featuring a brand new and so incredibly exaggerated character across so many different mediums proves to be something of a letdown in this anniversary year that is not worth the effort of pursuing as a whole and that resultantly keeps this from becoming one of Big Finish’s more dynamic and memorable collections.

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