The Last Day Part Two

Posted in Audio by - June 28, 2024
The Last Day Part Two

Released June 2024


Boldly billed as the Seventh Doctor’s final adventure before that fateful evening in San Francisco that would see him regenerate and confront the Master anew, The Last Day Part Two by Matt Fitton and Guy Adams with six episodes looks to pay off the tremendously continuity-laden exposition of The Last Day Part One that presented a much darker iteration of this Doctor who has given into his desire to right all wrongs in the universe with friends and enemies alike thrust into wholly unlikely roles.

In theory, writing a story set at this precise moment in the Seventh Doctor’s timeline as a victory lap celebrating all of the many companions and foes he has associated with is a tantalizing prospect, especially when bringing back the quantum possibility engine that explicitly allows alternate possibilities that can directly tie into The New Adventures, aborted or unrealized television plans, and more. In practice, even as the story finally switches its focus to true storytelling rather than simply exposition, the end result is still an overly convoluted and somewhat disjointed experience that seems to sacrifice the inclusion of the Doctor himself in order to fit in everyone and everything else. Of course, the Doctor not quite being the Doctor everyone expects doesn’t necessarily offer the celebration of the character that would be expected here, and though Sylvester McCoy again excels when delving into darker and more amicable characterizations alike as the pieces of the mystery begin to slot together, his time featured is far less than it should be as multiple storylines and a bevy of character compete for time.

Fitton and Adams unquestionably have a firm grasp on all of the characters present, and even with lapsed memories and a desire for paradoxes and anachronisms feeding events, all of the many companions are put into good positions for them to showcase their strongest qualities. Mel and Benny play off of each other fantastically with Bonnie Langford and Lisa Bowerman showing a tremendous chemistry, and Sophie Aldred proves adept at delving into a very surprising facet of Ace that exemplifies the alternative aspect of this narrative as well as the more traditionally heroic characterization that has made her such and enduring and beloved companion as she confronts the Doctor and everything unfolding around him. Perhaps unsurprisingly, however, it’s Philip Olivier who truly stands out as familial and personal torment drive Hex’s thoughts and actions, highlighting the very emotional and genuine nature of his character brilliantly and complemented exceedingly well by Amy Pemberton as Sally and by Lizzie Annis as Cassie. And while Chris Cwej and Roz Forrester don’t necessarily feature quite as heavily, their relationship and strength of character sparkles as they confront every threat head-on, Travis Oliver and Yasmin Bannerman again transferring these characters that originated on the written page into the audio medium incredibly well and proving why their time with the Seventh Doctor warrants much further exploration from Big Finish.

Strangely, The Last Story was advertised as not really having any prerequisite listening, but it’s unquestionably the story most laden with continuity and assumed listener knowledge that Big Finish has ever released. The Master, of course, is a known entity, and the unique relationship that he and the Doctor have is teased quite well here in these rather unexpected circumstances. Geoffrey Beevers excels like always with the dulcetly malevolent tones of his incarnation, and although it is perhaps surprising that it is this version of the Master who becomes entwined with the Daleks to feed into The TV Movie rather than Anthony Ainley’s, Beevers is a true highlight in this packed story. Beyond that, however, listeners coming into this story casually because of its intriguing premise likely will be lost. The first six episodes hardly offered substantial background information about Mother, Hob, or Garundel who originated in the audio medium while also relying on ‘Dragonfire’ to do the heavy lifting regarding Kane, and the six episodes here focus more on moving the narrative forward through its many settings rather than to delve into these characters’ backgrounds any more substantially. Bringing back the Sontaran Marshal Stenn from ‘Starlight Robbery’ also proves to be rather superfluous and just another name to add for continuity’s sake. The performances from Richenda Carey, Wayne Forester, Stuart Milligan, Edward Peel, and Dan Starkey are all strong in the respective roles, but the story again is far too overcrowded and can’t really explore these characters the way that they should be with the possible exception of a very assertive Kane.

Even more than ‘Dragonfire,’ ‘The Quantum Possibility Engine,’ ‘Black and White,’ ‘Starlight Robbery,’ and ‘The Transcendence of Ephros’ that the first part relied on, this second part is extremely heavily reliant on the events of ‘Dark Universe’ as well. Fitton and Adams do fairly well in succinctly summarizing he key plot components of that release in short order, and Lin Sagovsky lends a unique and almost ethereal vocal element to bring this component of the plot to life quite well, but hinging such a monumental release as this on a plot component from a single release over four years old at this point that has not been revisited since is odd at best and completely alienating at worst. Given the many characters in both friendly and enemy camps that are also not necessarily household names for any but the most hardcore fans, bringing back such an audacious concept- no matter how genuinely interesting and effective it may be- that really does require that previous knowledge to resonate fully is perhaps not the best foundation for this particular celebration. Indeed, with cliffhangers and plot elements even within this second part not being revisited and resolved until multiple episodes later due to the extreme volume of storylines and characters, The Last Day Part Two is a classic example of trying to do far too much and as a consequence offering far too little in return. The performances are uniformly strong, but the characters and ideas are more superficially touched upon than is needed, and the truth behind the Doctor’s actions and decisions here ultimately isn’t the most fulfilling even as the deception and duality are pulled back. There is absolutely no lack of ambition with this sprawling story, but Big Finish’s previous attempt to tell a Doctor’s final story with The Last Adventure featuring Colin Baker was altogether more satisfying and far outshines the narrative hodgepodge of The Last Day.

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