Iterations of I

Posted in Audio by - June 15, 2016
Iterations of I

Released August 2014

The subject of mathematics is the one constant in the universe, the one undeniable truth that can link any culture at any place at any time. The Fifth Doctor Box Set concludes with ‘Iterations of I,’ logically showcasing Adric’s return with a mathematics-based adventure. Fortunately, despite a creature whose perception is based in mathematics and imaginary numbers, ‘Iterations of I’ doesn’t descend into a lengthy discourse or diatribe about the subject, instead focusing on a mysterious haunting and a very tense atmosphere upon an Irish island.

With the TARDIS unreachable because of a failed landing attempt by Adric and Nyssa, they along with the Doctor and Tegan head to a large mansion for shelter, a mansion that has seen its fair share of death and intrigue in its history and one in which the sometimes-psychic Nyssa has difficulty entering. They soon come upon several rashly dug graves and a useless boat outside and smashed communications equipment among several large computers inside, and the mysteries regarding what the scientists were working on before smashing their equipment and disappearing as well what secrets lie within the computers soon take center stage.

‘Iterations of I’ takes place near the end of this particular TARDIS team’s time together, and the close friendships and respect between each is readily apparent, a stark contrast to ‘Psychodrome’ where the crewmembers were still coming to terms with their situation as well as each other. This story may not be the most innovative that Doctor Who has ever done, but the clever script and excellent performances certainly make it one of the stronger Big Finish outings. Everything flows coherently and logically, the mystery being set up right from the start as the barren mansion with everything but the computers destroyed and Nyssa’s psychic apprehensions quickly ratchet up the tension. Writer John Dorney makes good use of some haunted house stereotypes, and the introduction of the villainous presence is exceedingly well done as audio journals and reactions slowly piece the puzzle together. There is some smart comedy interspersed to break up the tension, and this becomes a necessity since the horror of the creature and its effects on its victims are absolutely horrifying and perfectly suited for the audio medium.

Because of the rather more complex nature of this villain compared to most all Doctor Who stories, listeners will need to pay a greater degree of attention to events, although the payoff for doing so is superb. Mathematics inevitably come into play, and there is an obligatory small portion of the story dedicated to explaining these concepts, but the manner in which they are presented is not overwhelming and certainly does not detract from the story. The ending is a little on the cheesy side, but the events leading up to it and nearing the climax absolutely more than make up for any shortcoming a listener may find with the resolution.

This story was unquestionably written with Adric in mind, but it also features an incredibly strong performance from Peter Davison, a very intelligent and clever Doctor who is much more confident in his actions than in his newly-regenerated state in ‘Psychodrome’ but also one who is still unafraid to guess and to admit when he is wrong. There was understandably some apprehension about the return of Adric, but ‘Iterations of I’ continues his strong portrayal as his eager confidence and enthusiasm for mathematics overwhelms his as he attempts to discern what the creature actually is and then to actually trap it. At the same time, he seems quite desperate to impress the Doctor and to be correct, something that will famously rear its head in ‘Earthshock,’ and the overall performance is quite passionate and solid even as his alien origins eventually come into focus. Matthew Waterhouse, again understandably, cannot mimic his teenage voice, but the higher pitch he uses as well as his usual inflections is a valiant effort and is again something that will not take away from the overall experience.

With a later setting, it’s interesting to see just how much Tegan has changed since the first story as well, feeling much more comfortable within the TARDIS and having an unwavering respect for the Doctor and her friends while retaining her usual sarcasm. Once again, though, Sarah Sutton’s Nyssa is relegated more to the background, her psychic acuity making her the first victim of the creature and mathematics not necessarily being her strongest subject. As always, all of leads give spectacular performances, but the crowded four-person team unfortunately means that not all can be overtly involved with the action throughout the entirety of the story.

There is an underlying love story at the heart of proceedings, Allison McKenzie’s Imogen Frazer and Joseph Radcliffe’s Jerome Khan involved in that story. Interestingly, Frazer is only heard through audio logs, her initial excitement about discovering a new life that gives way to impending fear that the creature will not let them escape contrasting nicely with Khan’s initial apprehension about Imogen’s fate that slowly cedes to acceptance and tolerance of her death and then a glimmer of hope. Filling out the cast, Andrew Macklin, Sinead Keenan, and Teddy Kemper all give very compelling and formidable performances as well.

Featuring spectacular performances and sound effects that wonderfully bring a smart and tight script to life, ‘Iterations of I’ is another triumph for Big Finish which has done the undeniably difficult task of making the teenage Adric relevant and enjoyable once again after so very long away from the role for Matthew Waterhouse.

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