The Lone Centurion Volume One

Posted in Audio by - April 12, 2021
The Lone Centurion Volume One

Released April 2021

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

Arguably no companion of the Doctor’s has had such a complicated relationship with life and time than Rory Williams, the man who was erased from time itself, who returned as part of a grandiose trap for the Doctor in plasticized form, and who would go on to become Amy Pond’s husband and the Doctor’s own father-in-law. Yet before any weddings could take place and at a time when the entire universe was in danger of ending and Amy required over two millennia inside the legendary Pandorica to survive, the inhuman Rory showed the purest act of humanity by choosing to take the long way around and staying fatefully by his fiancé’s side throughout history. With Arthur Darvill reprising his famed role, The Lone Centurion picks up the saga of the mysterious figure who walked through history while clad in Roman soldier garb.

David Llewellyn’s ‘Galdiator’ begins this first volume with Rory forced to perform as a gladiator in the Colosseum. Surviving what should have been a mortal blow with no ill effects, Rory soon finds himself employed as the Emperor’s personal bodyguard to fend off would-be assassination attempts while adding to his own repute. As Rory always keeps his mind on once more returning to his diligent watch over the Pandorica, he finds himself squarely in the middle of dangerous intrigue that continues to mount in scope and severity. With a lighter and at times even more comedic tone that fits perfectly with the character of Rory even if it is a bit unexpected given the visceral and dangerous setting, there is little depth afforded the mystery of the culprit with obvious vocal and visual cues moving the plot through expected checkpoints until the layered final reveal. Still, these checkpoints serve to allow for a strong reintroduction to Rory and how he reacts when trying to find his way and maintain his strong sense of morality when surrounded by so much deceit and peril. For the most part, the ruthless cruelty and humour mesh successfully even if the underlying soundscape that sometimes brings in much more modern styles and sounds can be quite jarring, and this intriguing tonality should serve the series well if it continues given how well it allows Rory’s own confidence, humility, and awkwardness to shine. Darvill gives an incredibly strong performance that makes it seem as though he never left the role; although ‘Gladiator’ is in every essence a setup story for more to come, the strong supporting performances from Joseph Tweedale as Caesar and Joanna Van Kampen as Augusta combined with dark prophecies and so many other faces near and far from the emperor’s inner circle create and develop an engrossing atmosphere filled with the complications of social statuses and their resulting interpersonal relationships. This particular timeline allows practically anything to happen, and with a light yet dangerous plot that puts its emphasis on its characters rather than history, it’s clear that there is plenty of potential for this franchise and the continued dynamic growth of a beloved companion thrust into the most unique and arduous of circumstances.

With Augusta now Empress of Rome, Rory- due to his keen ability to avoid dying no matter the threat posed- is made her official assassin in ‘The Unwilling Assassin’ by Sarah Ward. Befitting of her position and surrounded by prophesies of her demise, Augusta is increasingly paranoid about those who may have eyes on her power and increasingly eager to eliminate those who have wronged her or may wrong her in any way. Given that Rory neither wanted his bestowed position nor has any desire to murder anyone, Augusta’s increasing paranoia continues to create tremendous sources of conflict for Rory whose own life depends on performing all of his assigned tasks. Rory’s own morality would never allow him to take a life for the reasons presented, of course, and Darvill again does an incredible job in portraying a tormented man staying true to himself as he goes to increasing lengths to save the lives of those Augusta has targeted. Knowing that he is being followed by Augusta’s chief spy when rumours of previous conquests still being alive begin to circulate, the deceptive measures and heartfelt and pleading conversations he employs become increasingly dramatic and help to fuel the increasingly fraught dynamics among Augusta, Decima, and himself. This is another story in which interpersonal drama is paramount, and Robyn Holdaway joins Van Kampen and Darvill to ensure that what is ultimately another fairly straightforward sequence is never anything less than entrancing. Indeed, best intentions often lead to little gain and instead result in wholly unanticipated consequences for everyone involved, and the lighter tone that Rory’s mannerisms create and that this series is embracing works to create a genuinely intriguing affair from beginning to end. ‘The Unwilling Assassin’ is hardly the deepest or most dramatic affair that Big Finish has produced, but through its many twists and turns surrounding so many strong-willed individuals it always stays true to Rory as a character and utilizes a sterling piece of dramatic irony to perfectly set the scene for a most unique finale.

‘I, Rorius’ by Jacqueline Rayner concludes this first set of stories with Rory now in the position of Emperor and desperately hoping to maintain a semblance of normal life while always being watched. It’s not long before assassination attempts begin on his own life, though, and the manner in which Rory has to sidestep the facts that he cannot be injured and does not require sleep or food is a constant source of internal drama given how very public his every single move is. It’s fitting, then, that he should order a personal shrine of his own goddess, Amelia, to be built to allow him the peace needed to voice his internal thoughts and to genuinely allow him to further develop amid the increasing chaos around him as the Festival of Vulcan nears with fires that will truly test even his own immortality. At this point, Rory is still very much learning how to take control like he would come to do later in his TARDIS travels, and his continued humility and openness even when afforded such grand powers is a testament to the man Rory will always be. The script is brimming with beautiful monologues that allow for a much more introspective tone than either of the preceding stories, and Darvill continues to excel in every respect no matter the emotion asked of him at any time. It’s also fitting that Rory should continue to look for a friendly face in this world of would-be assassins and plotters, and Samantha Béart shows an easy chemistry with Darvill that makes the burgeoning and heartfelt friendship that develops between Rory and Anna all the more effective and poignant as Anna’s own intuition and honesty allow Rory to continue to open up to her before tragedy and heroism intervene and the two must inevitably split. Rayner still includes plenty of levity and comedy as this man out of time attempts to traverse the perils and power of his position, but the highly introspective and emotional tone and subject matter easily make ‘I, Rorius’ the strongest entry of this set and a wonderfully engaging endpoint as the series and Rory boldly look to the future. Whether or not The Lone Centurion chooses to maintain an overall lighter tone in future volumes or not, this series has hit the ground running and provides an apt showcase for Arthur Darvill as Rory Williams while offering three immensely entertaining instalments set on the fringe of the Eleventh Doctor era.

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