The Auton Infinity

Posted in Audio by - September 10, 2022
The Auton Infinity

Released September 2022


As the Fifth Doctor continues to be sent backwards and forwards through his own timeline without any knowledge or control, he finds himself in the presence of Tegan and Turlough as UNIT undertakes a training exercise to deal with alien invasions in Tim Foley’s six-part ‘The Auton Infinity,’ the conclusion to Big Finish’s fortieth anniversary celebration of the Fifth Doctor and the sole instalment within Forty 2.

‘The Auton Infinity’ is a celebration of the Fifth Doctor and of Doctor Who as a whole, and given the Master’s undoubted importance to this franchise and to the Fifth Doctor era, in particular, it’s perfectly logical that this tale should begin as an homage to so many of the Master’s classic schemes. A retired Brigadier has been called in to monitor as UNIT tests a new response force while seeking government approval, UNIT looking for a less ostentatious and public way of dealing with alien threats than was often the case under the Brigadier’s watch; this carefully planned exercise is intended to highlight this new means of defense while appeasing the ever-watchful but equally-reproachful Veronica Holmes. Lucy Fleming is perfect for this haughty role, and the slight softness she is able to imbue into the certainty that her previous experience with administrative oversight has brought as she comes to witness first-hand the wonders and terrors she is all too keenly aware that UNIT and the Doctor experience makes for a fascinating subplot as far more than just the Welsh countryside finds itself at stake.

Of course, the Master was introduced on screen alongside the Autons, and while ‘The Auton Infinity’ instantly succeeds with its introduction of the Autons as UNIT soldiers are overtaken and various plastic items come to life with terrifying effect, the story quickly reaches another level once a carnival tent is seen and the true scope of this apparent invasion under the guise of a staged practice invasion becomes known. Indeed, the first two parts of this story spend a significant amount of time setting the scene and highlighting the burgeoning realization that things are not going to plan as is the case in so many classic Doctor Who serials, and the Brigadier quickly finds himself asked to assume control of the mobile operation as the Doctor and UNIT forces fronted by Sergeant Wharry, Captain Mears, and Corporal Palmer seek the truth behind the interference and the apparent loss of life signs. Of course, the Master is the master of disguise, and with both the Autons and the Master possessing distinct abilities to look like anyone, nothing can be assumed to be real, and in a clever subversion of the Master’s propensity to use anagrams of his moniker to hide his latest disguise, his choice here is incredible in its audaciousness and is subtly hinted at before his reveal within this backdrop of so much going wrong.

After the initial two parts, ‘The Auton Infinity’ truly starts to flex its imaginative scope, albeit in a fashion that remains surprisingly grounded by the Prodigal who is spreading the Auton influence with the Master’s help. This portion of the Nestene Consciousness that was broken off and taken to Gallifrey’s Death Zone as part of the nefarious plot in ‘The Five Doctors’ has found herself permanently cut off from the collective she has always known, triggering a unique internal dilemma in which she cannot quite accept the individuality she has gained as a result. Tegan and Prodigal form a surprisingly deep connection as the two discuss what individuality is without either truly disparaging the other’s known experiences, and Janet Fielding and Juliet Aubrey imbue a tremendous amount of emotion to what very easily could have become a flat and forgettable element of the story. However, Prodigal’s own consciousness is but one element of the Auton story here, and with another nod to Gallifrey’s past as the very beginnings of vortex travel are explored and with the foibles of the Type 40 capsules that result in so much apparent turbulence explained and exploited, the dangers of awakening an Old One that could rewrite the universe and all of time is a monumental crisis presented existentially with potential ramifications that are all too clear and palpable. That a paradox is at the centre of the resolution is a slight letdown, but that it manages to tie together this very real threat with the Doctor’s own experiences jumping around within his timeline is impressive and undoubtedly magnifies the scale of and sacrifice needed for the only plan apparently available to stop its spread.

Of course, any celebration of the Fifth Doctor must naturally centre around the Fifth Doctor, and Peter Davison is superb in an increasingly complicated story that sees his incarnation in its earliest days still trying to make sense of who he is and what he will come to do while also interacting with a most surprising paradox that perfectly highlights the ingenuity, determination, and cautiousness of this Doctor. However, in a story that heavily features the Brigadier and the Master and that includes Kamelion in quite an important role as the entirety of the Fifth Doctor’s timeline is explored, Jon Culshaw is the glue that holds this celebratory moment together. This is his first appearance in a full-cast drama as the Anthony Ainsley iteration of the Master that featured so prominently during the Davison era, and while his Ainsley voice is not quite as strong as his Nicholas Courtney voice, he expertly captures the mannerisms and the understatedly sinister laugh to gloriously create a believable presence that has sorely been missing from Big Finish’s offerings. As always, his Brigadier is mesmerizing, and ‘The Auton Infinity’ allows plenty of time for Turlough and the Brigadier to reflect and converse about where each finds himself following their sometimes-tumultuous time together at Brendon Public School. This is just one of a multitude of references to particular moments throughout the Fifth Doctor’s tenure and beyond, and while none of them feel intrusive or unnecessary, each combines to truly deliver on the commemorative premise. Truly, with stunning performances, direction, and sound design that capture the tone of the era while seamlessly integrating several decades of reflection and hindsight, ‘The Auton Infinity’ is a nearly flawless Doctor Who adventure and a true standard-bearer for what an anniversary release should be.

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1 Comment on "The Auton Infinity"

  • Harry West

    Better than Forty 1, but drab, dull, boring and perhaps the most continuity heavy story BF have ever done. Plus, Culshaw’s Master doesn’t sound right. A waste.

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