Stone Cold

Posted in Audio by - June 25, 2023
Stone Cold

Released June 2023


The TARDIS lands on a volcanic planet that is the site of a recent pleasure cruiser crash to open Roland Moore’s ‘Stone Cold.’ An ancient foe that can move faster than the blink of an eye stalks the rocky terrain, however, and the fight for survival is only just beginning.

Without doubt, the Weeping Angels are one of the modern iteration of Doctor Who’s greatest creations and contributions to pop culture as a whole. While their impact after ‘Blink’ was perhaps somewhat diminished as their scope and powers seemed to arbitrarily grow to keep them from becoming stale in their subsequent televised appearances, their incredible speed and the ever-present fear they instill by possibly being present in any unseen area have continued to make them fantastically dangerous and unique threats for the Doctor and his friends to confront. Of course, their very visual nature has created challenges and opportunities for Big Finish who have wisely incorporated these newer aliens relatively sparingly into their offerings, and with the iconic Fourth Doctor already successfully confronting the Vashta Nerada, the iconic Weeping Angels are an exciting and natural enemy for this range to next visit.

Unfortunately, ‘Stone Cold’ doesn’t quite manage to live up to the potential that the Weeping Angels present. For a range that has been composed predominantly of snappy two-part stories, the decision to instead feature the Weeping Angels that themselves come from the pacier modern era in a four-part story that almost by necessity must be slower in pacing is an odd one, not the least because it takes almost half of the running time for the Angels to truly become a present menace. The story does at least utilize some of the Angels’ unique properties to set up the mystery as the Doctor, Leela, and Margaret find a grave from one hundred years in the past of a woman who is still alive aboard the cruiser, but far too much time is spent with the plot more or less treading water as a small group of individuals are introduced and their colleagues’ disappearances discussed with little overall momentum.

Of course, a brilliant utilization of the Angels can easily overcome any narrative structural concerns, but ‘Stone Cold’ also seems somewhat uncommitted in terms of what the actual threat is and how best to incorporate it. Having Margaret who is already considering leaving the TARDIS because of the constant danger she is confronting be so directly involved is a fantastic choice and allows Nerys Hughes plenty of opportunity to highlight the turbulent emotions of her character in this situation, but too much of the Angel’s movement at various points is specified by loudly proclaiming that the focus of vision must have been distracted however briefly. Treating the Angels’ speed in this matter is something of an ungraceful approach to circumventing the visual nature of the Angels’ menace, and it also serves to further slow down the plot and sap some of the requisite tension and fear the Angels’ command both from the story’s characters and audience alike. With the incorporation of the famed image of an Angel becoming an Angel and their ability to control others- albeit here in a somewhat limited capacity that confounds even the Doctor- as well, Moore certainly tries to capitalize on the many nuances of this race, but each of these factors fails to fully resonate and truly accentuate the sheer power and near-inescapability of these foes.

Fortunately, the supporting cast of characters comes to life quite successfully while bringing forth the strengths and weakness of each with a certain fate all but preordained. The self-entitlement and privilege of first-class passengers is an easily recognizable characteristic that causes unexpected consternation for the travelers, but others’ attempts to unite their past experiences with their present predicament successfully highlight the very different means by which some can adapt and thrive or tremble and collapse in heightened and dangerous environments. Guy Adams, Shvorne Marks, Victor McGuire, Olivia Poulet, and Joe Sims all deserve credit for giving this story a true emotional foundation and genuine sense of scope, allowing the steadfast determination of the Doctor and his companions to resonate all the more profoundly as the threat intensifies and the fight for survival continues. As always, Tom Baker is superb as his Doctor comes to realize the true danger and tries to piece together the conflicting information before him, but it really is Nerys Hughes who comes to be the standout here as she tries to reconcile what traveling in time is really like with what she thought it would be. This, in turn, allows for the wonderful relationship that has developed between Leela and Margaret to come to the forefront as these two strong women discuss their very different lives and outlooks on life, epitomizing the very best qualities of each while again highlighting just how differently even individual who travels with the Doctor can react to the dangers that he so often courts. ‘Stone Cold’ in many respects is a strong character piece both for lead and supporting characters alike, but its awkward pacing and rather unsteady incorporation of the Angels and their multifaceted dangers makes for an equally uneven and disjointed experience overall that can’t quite live up to the excitement that this long-anticipated clash between iconic hero and iconic foe demands.

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