The Children of Seth

Posted in Audio by - July 19, 2017
The Children of Seth

Released December 2011

To round out its trilogy of Fifth Doctor adventures to open the third series of The Lost Stories, Big Finish turns to ‘The Children of Seth,’ a story from the mind of ‘Kinda’ and ‘Snakedance’ writer Christopher Bailey. When the TARDIS picks up a message on the temporal scanner containing only the word ‘Idra,’ the Doctor, Nyssa, and Tegan travel to the Archipelago of Sirius as the Autarch is about to announce a crusade against Seth, the Prince of Dark, and the secrets of Queen Anahita and of Level 14 threaten to become known.

‘The Children of Seth’ is nowhere near as deep or thought-provoking as Bailey’s two televised outings, but it also wisely never pretends to be and instead superbly focuses on fleshing out the world and culture of Sirius as the Doctor and his companions take rather proactive roles in finding out about their surroundings during their familiar routine of capture and escape. Accordingly, the political treachery and mistrust is all presented logically and fluidly, and the justice system on display is certainly severe enough to add an extra layer to a story that takes a distinctly different route from its many peers that also deal with rebellion against a hierarchical government. Even if the android storyline is only briefly alluded to early on with the discovery of a law banning android construction before becoming crucial to the overall resolution, the once-pure androids’ allegorical reference to the biblical children of Seth is incredibly satisfying and works exceedingly well.

Although each of the leads is crucial to the progression of the plot, they are all somewhat less prominently featured than is typical, including the Doctor who is surprisingly vulnerable during his exposure to the defense net. This is a rarely-explored angle for Big Finish to take with any of its Doctors, but Davison excels in adding the needed nuance and emotion to his performance to successfully bring this facet to life. Nyssa once more finds her mind altered as she is taken to the mysterious Level 14, and though this aspect of the story doesn’t quite get the exploration it deserves given the setup, it remains an intensely visual one that creates a tremendous sense of intrigue. Until the final episode when the Doctor truly steps to the forefront, Tegan serves as the true driving force of the narrative, though, again using a rarely-seen side of her characterization while serving as the catalyst for the Sirian reconnaissance.

However, it’s the characterization of the guest characters that proves to be the best component of ‘The Children of Seth,’ allowing this culture in decay and resulting power play to breathe without ever seeming commonplace or tedious. Honor Blackman’s Anahita as an old associate of the Doctor’s who still holds a surprising amount of power despite seemingly being cast aside from her former ruling glory is easily the most intriguing, and the combination of callousness and compassion makes her a fascinating character that contrasts nicely with the more overtly villainous Byzan. Adrian Lukas instills a perfect sense of paranoia to his desperate character who manoeuvres his way into the top position of power, and David Warner excels as the Autarch while easily exuding the aging essence of a once-powerful man succumbing to the effects of dementia. ‘The Children of Seth’ comes from a time when the television series employed very large casts, and Big Finish has done a wonderful job in bringing together a truly strong group of actors to bring the many roles to life realistically.

So although ‘The Children of Seth’ isn’t quite as tonally strong or nuanced as ‘Kinda’ and ‘Snakedance,’ Christopher Bailey’s typically strong characterization is absolutely present from beginning to end. While the androids and intrigue of the banned book that gave rise to the notion of Seth could have been more crucial to the earlier portions of this tense and dramatic tale, the strong direction and superb sound design further help distinguish this story from its peers and cement ‘The Children of Seth’ as another rousing success for The Lost Stories.

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