The Chaos Cascade

Posted in Audio by - January 11, 2024
The Chaos Cascade

Released January 2024


The Audio Novels range has quickly established itself as one of Big Finish’s most intriguing, allowing for simultaneously epic and intimate stories that have easily navigated the modern and classic eras and tones alike. ‘The Chaos Cascade’ by Colin Brake turns to the Twelfth Doctor era as the Doctor and Missy who is trying to convince the Doctor that she is trying to reform her ways find themselves entwined in an urgent search for the three pieces of the Triskelia needed to control the eponymous breach in reality.

Intriguingly, ‘The Chaos Cascade’ changes the established format of this range by relying on three narrators rather than one with Dan Starkey, Beth Chalmers, and Rebecca Root each taking turns as the Doctor, Missy, and former Eighth Doctor companion Tania Bell alternate focus. In theory, this is an exciting means of breaking up the plot and narrative structure while giving something of a clearer indication of the emotions and mindset of the most focal character at any given time; however, in practice it ends up presenting something of a more disjointed story overall given the three different intonations given to any given character and especially by Root narrating in the first-person as Tania while the other two-thirds unfold through the third-person perspective. There is no doubt that Starkey offers the superior Doctor, Chalmers the superior Missy, and Root the superior Tania, and while the performances are uniformly strong no matter the character being voiced at any time, it’s an experiment that certainly comes with both pros and cons.

Yet while the quick succession of appearances from Tania alongside the Ninth Doctor and now the Twelfth Doctor do somewhat dilute the emotional farewell recently bid to the Eighth Doctor following the Stranded saga, Tania’s appearance here as she investigates an obvious coverup for alien activity certainly presents plenty of unique narrative opportunities. Coming at a time when Missy is herself wrestling with the inner turmoil of bringing forth her good side after giving into her bad side for so many regenerations as the Master, these opportunities reach their height when Tania comes upon Missy during her encounter with an alien and assumes her to be the Doctor in a new incarnation given her ability to understand an alien that must be due to the TARDIS somewhere nearby. Though Missy never explicitly claims to be the Doctor, she certainly never corrects Tania, and it’s clear that she revels in the role of guiding a companion through a conflict that has the potential to alter the entire universe forever. While that illusion is, of course, eventually shattered, the dynamics of Missy both alongside the Doctor and Tania perfectly capture her moral dilemma perfectly, and her realization that the Doctor has set the perfect test of character for her after claiming that he has locked the TARDIS controls to respond only to him expertly highlights the tenuous nature of the burgeoning relationship between the two Time Lords. Naturally, Missy excels within chaos, and the constant questioning of her motivations as she takes particular actions that seemingly go against the common good to benefit only herself continue to offer a wonderful look at this particularly fascinating element and character of the Twelfth Doctor era.

The scope of the conflict here is amplified by the introduction of two alien races, the more aggressive Myzen and the more peaceful Tollatee. Once at war with each other but having long since established peace, certain elements look to reclaim the supposed glories of the past by rekindling the war and seeing it through to its completion via the acquisition of the three hidden pieces of the Triskelia. Brake does well to add some depth and emotions to this storyline when so much focus is quite rightly on the Doctor, Missy, and Tania, and conflicting feelings about war as well as family ties help to make for a gripping tale with a poignant conclusion that solidifies Missy’s good intentions while also reaffirming the genuinely heroic nature of Tania who is willing to risk her own life in order to save everyone and everything around her. Brake has a firm grasp on each of these leads and offers superb characterization throughout, and while the somewhat paradoxical nature of the Chaos Cascade doesn’t quite mesh with the story as a whole even as a series of supporting characters are cast in a new light along the way, this is a wonderfully paced story full of surprises and incredible ideas that make it so much more than a simple quest tale. Peter Capaldi’s era has understandably not been explored in too much depth on audio as of yet, but ‘The Chaos Cascade’ is another strong foray into that territory that is sure to please its fans immensely.

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