Red Darkness

Posted in Audio by - February 12, 2023
Red Darkness

Released February 2023


With the Ninth Doctor’s televised adventures confined to Earth or its immediate vicinity throughout time, Big Finish has seized the opportunity to take this guilt-ridden incarnation away from his adopted planet in order to expand the threats and wonders he has experienced. In Roy Gill’s ‘Red Darkness’ to conclude this second series of The Ninth Doctor Adventures, the Doctor arrives at a ravaged colony that has seen its population all but eliminated, the uniquely promising sunlight from Solis Kailya that could revolutionize farming instead housing an intensifying threat that the Doctor knows all too well.

Of course, the story’s blurb and the set’s cover art make little secret of the fact that the Vashta Nerada are a primary focus, and Big Finish continues to treat this very visual and psychological threat exceedingly well in the audio medium as flesh is stripped from bones and basic communication occurs through the most unconventional of means. When any shadow can be a threat, an inherent sense of dread and tension ensues, and the actors and sound design perfectly allow that visceral and impending fear to fully manifest as the struggling population continues to lessen one by one. Impressively, however, Gill also manages to bring back the alien menace from this set’s opener that can inhabit and weaponize the colour red and makes them all the more frightful by intermingling their terrifying visual threat with the typically shrouded efforts of the Vashta Nerada, meaning no place or time of day is truly safe. The voice chosen for this enemy fusion is somewhat generic in its powerful delivery, but this is the perfect example of bringing together old and new to offer something genuinely exciting and palpably frightening as even the briefest sighting of these foes allows their influence to spread. The TARDIS, of course, represents the path to ultimate villainous conquest, and though this point is something of a retread of ‘The Colour of Terror,’ the white light atop that normally represents such a beacon of hope here representing anything but is a satisfying subversion of norms that emphasizes the unique threat and that also puts the Doctor squarely on the defensive as his group of allies continues to numerically shrink.

Gill previously concluded the first run of this series with a monumental two-parter featuring the Cybermen, but this finale is notably much smaller in scale despite no dip in ambition and focuses intensely on its core characters in the process. As expected, Christopher Eccleston is magnificent as the Doctor deftly assumes control of the situation and tries to adapt to the ever-evolving threat before him. There’s a genuine sense of fear and anxiety in his voice that underscores the threat at hand, and his determined energy ensures that the pacing never falters. Alongside him, Adam Martyn excels as the young and headstrong Callen Lennox who is still trying to discover who he is within the limited confines of this colony, and Leah Whitaker is equally engaging as Callen’s mother who is so dedicated to both her work and trying to ensure the best for her son no matter the personal cost. In a move that could have easily become a distraction, the inclusion of Callen’s dog who can speak via technological enhancements is instead a tremendous asset with a loyalty, excitement, and unique perspective on life that Harki Bhambra brings forth immensely well. Whether or not Big Finish decides to follow though on the notion of Callen and Doyle joining the Ninth Doctor as audio-exclusive companions, they make an immediate and enduring impact here with an emotional core and youthful energy that perfectly complement the amplifying dangers around them. Indeed, by eliminating a villainous figurehead that is both one-dimensional and murkily motivated and by featuring a slightly smaller core cast that allows its characters to fully develop, ‘Red Darkness’ improves upon the foundation that ‘The Colour of Terror’ set for this collection of stories and creates an impactful and thrilling conclusion in the process.

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