The Conservitors

Posted in Audio by - February 26, 2023
The Conservitors

Released February 2023


With the elder Jo back aboard the TARDIS once again, the Third Doctor lands on the planet Viltris in the forty-ninth century in ‘The Conservitors’ by Felicia Barker. This is a civilization modeled around statistical risk analysis with a robotic force used to ensure its citizens’ safety, but not everyone is happy with the current state of affairs, and the threat of rebellion is on the rise.

The prospect of placing more restrictions on individuals who represent a higher risk to society is generally restricted for the most extreme circumstances, but on Voltris every single action from driving to even conversing with others is layered with a resulting analysis; although ostensibly this is done for Premier Maldon to highlight the resulting safety his regime offers everyone, there’s little doubt that this safety is due to the sacrificing of an increasing number of individual freedoms. Even the smallest and seemingly most inconsequential action contains an element of risk, and having everything so closely studied and regulated is all but imprisonment under another name. Of course, with Maldon espousing that the alternative is for society to descend in pure chaos and anarchy as predicted in Forecast 53, most are willing to accept these imposed stipulations, and the pervasive presence of the robots that prevent individuals from taking risks is an oppressive and constant reminder of just how insidious and inescapable Maldon’s presence is.

Interestingly, Jo at this point in her life is much more nonchalant about the prospect of risk, taunting and daring others to do their worst at every turn. She is certainly still more than cognizant of the risks and potential consequences, if perhaps not the full extent of those consequences, but her time fighting for her planet alongside Cliff has unquestionably given her extreme confidence in her own abilities to the point of almost becoming reckless. It’s an intriguing bit of characterization that emphasizes that this Jo is not a carbon copy of the one who left the Doctor’s side so long ago, and her surprising ability to defuse a bomb suggests that this confidence is well-earned. Indeed, at times this Jo seems like an amalgamation of Jo Grant and Manning’s other famed Big Finish heroine Iris Wildthyme, and Manning does supremely well to balance the typical mannerisms of her younger Jo with the dynamic shifts in character Jo’s continued fights through the decades have brought forth. ‘The Conservitors’ doesn’t necessarily feature the emotional weightiness that the previous story held as Jo discussed her past in detail, but it characterizes her exceedingly well and again highlights why this set is not simply another inconsequential reunion to appease fans. Alongside Manning, Tim Treloar excels as always as the Third Doctor, here trying to work around the high risk assessed to any offworlders to not only uncover the truth behind this increased vigilance but also how to affect change by- fittingly- measuring perceived risks to himself and to others and then weighing them against potential outcomes.

Rather than simply having the Doctor and Jo confront Maldon and his regime while the repressed state of the population as a whole remains nothing but a necessary piece of background information, Vykane gives voice to the growing sect of the population that is no longer willing to accept the increasingly stifled freedoms and options no matter Maldon’s stated intent. Intriguingly, however, her own thoughts and motivations are directly compared to Maldon’s own even with the obviously distinctive endpoints, highlighting that even bringing about change with the best of intentions can lead precisely to the situation hoping to be avoided if left unchecked. This adds another certain grim undercurrent to this corrupt dystopian society that tempers any optimism for change, and Gary Turner and Poppy Miller do well to bring the strong contrasts of emotions and visions for this society to the fore throughout the narrative.

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