The False Dimitry

Posted in Audio by - May 07, 2022
The False Dimitry

Released May 2022


The Doctor lands in 1605 Moscow as the country learns of the death of Tsar Boris Fyodorovich Godunov to begin Sarah Grochala’s ‘The False Dimitry’. Some suspect unnatural forces are to blame, and as a successor advances on the Kremlin with an army and prepares the country for war, it soon becomes clear that not everything is as it seems.

Big Finish has a strong history with Russian settings in its audio dramas, the history and soundscape creating a strong foundation upon which its emotional stories can develop. Unfortunately, ‘The False Dimitry’ fails to capitalize upon the drama of its true history and instead simply offers a hodgepodge of ideas that never completely solidify into a meaningful narrative. The story boasts an impressive array of characters, but none of them become truly developed, and the tone that the completely over-the-top nurse maid Okshana establishes at the beginning only sets the scene for the wildly uneven experience that follows. There are hints of a far deeper story with a monk who was has forsaken his previous life as a soldier as well as a forbidden love, but these ultimately end up being superfluous to the actual plot presented that inexplicably also fails to explain and detail the motivations of the invading alien force. ‘The False Dimitry’ feels like a first draft that is brimming with ideas and subplots, but it’s clear that some of these needed to be cut to give more prominence to the wholly relevant ones to make the overall experience within the allotted time much more profound and resonant.

Sadly, the dialogue doesn’t capture the usual sparkle of The Ninth Doctor Adventures either, most of the time only furthering the sense that nothing meaningful is happening while simply waiting for the next big set piece or image to advance the plot. There is far too much overt and direct explanation of who is who and why each person is acting out of character, detracting from the drama rather than accentuating it and never allowing for an immersive experience to develop. Alexander Arnold does manage to do an admirable job as Dimitry Ivanovitch given the rather lacklustre dialogue afforded his character, but there’s nothing to distinguish any character along the way to create a lasting impression once any scene finishes. As always, however, Christopher Eccleston is incredibly charismatic and energetic as the Doctor who throws himself into the mystery at hand with gusto, but the script never quite manages to integrate the Doctor any more than any of its bevy of other characters given the fluctuating tones and disparate plot points at hand.

At the very least, the music is wonderfully engrossing, and while the sound design as a whole is perhaps not as immersive as the preceding story in this set, it capably creates the scenes that the stilted dialogue can’t quite manage. There’s little more to say about ‘The False Dimitry’ as whole, however; no character or motivation is properly explored, and so it just feels like a story composed of bullet points rather than of a deeply interlinked narrative of shared and contrasting experiences. There are flashes of brilliance peppered throughout, but they are far too infrequent to ensure its audience’s full investment in what is ultimately a disappointing and uninspiring affair.

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