The Robots Volume Six

Posted in Audio by - April 22, 2023
The Robots Volume Six

Released April 2023


Beginning as an intriguing diversion with Liv Chenka departing the Doctor’s company during the events of Ravenous 2 to return to Kaldor and reconnect with her sister, The Robots quickly turned into one of the more fascinating offerings in Big Finish’s catalogue, offering a compelling and sometimes frightening look at a society in which technology has advanced at an alarming rate. With Kaldor experiencing its most turbulent time in history, The Robots draws to a close with its sixth volume as Liv and Tula try their best to make a meaningful difference.

In Helen Goldwyn’s ‘Force of Nature,’ Liv and Tula join a compulsory recovery training course just one month after Tula’s enhancement chip was compromised. Unfortunately, the attempts to help rehabilitate those like Tula who have been infected and affected come under threat when a SuperVoc with eerily human-like tendencies takes on a prominent role in the course. With protests outside against the Company paralleling the tensions among the participants within, Goldwyn successfully captures the fraught nature of this society and the many layers of strain and pressure that the advancing technology within it causes. Beth Chalmers gives a chillingly effective performance as the advanced SV113 who says precisely the right sentiment in every situation, playing on the emotions of each individual with key pieces of information and subtle suggestions in a compellingly logical and emotionless tone. An intriguing core mystery unfolds as dangers and deaths mount within this course, and a fear and distrust of humans becomes just as strong of a narrative as the fear and distrust of robots as the safety parameters and restraints present within Kaldor’s robots ensure that the weaknesses of humanity are always front and centre as suspicions mount. ‘Force of Nature’ is by no means a story that dramatically advances the overall plot of The Robots, but it’s a confident and stylish reintroduction to the series that expertly introduces another incredible iteration of the Kaldor robots and further blurs the line between artificial intelligence and sentience with morality- both from within and via external suggestions- shrouded in grey. As always, Nicola Walker and Claire Rushbrook are wonderful as the Chenka sisters attempt to uncover the mystery they have unwittingly found themselves embroiled in, and their no-nonsense approach to finding the common denominator to the threats and dangers around them while uncovering the hidden motivations and fears of the people here affirms their strengths both together and apart while also highlighting their compassion that could so easily have been lost amidst their harrowing year.

‘Face to Face’ by John Dorney takes the robotic facsimiles to the logical extreme as Tula awakens in her apartment to find a duplicate of herself and a pair of Livs alongside her. Unfortunately, both Tulas and both Livs are confident that each of them is a genuine article, their mannerisms and thoughts the exact same and offering no hope of distinguishing truth from lies. Locked inside and armed only with the assumption that getting rid of the robotic duplicates will open their way, Liv and Tula find themselves locked in a mental battle with themselves, desperately trying to find any way to differentiate themselves and wondering just who may have set up this scenario and what that person or group could possibly hope to gain. As a phone rings and explosions outside draw ever nearer, each and every action any individual takes is drawn into question, and while it does seem as though something like bleeding or injury could have been used as a show of proof, the journey to the truth that is so laden in thoughts of conspiracy and overanalyzing provides an incredible opportunity for Nicola Walker and Claire Rushbrook to show their emotional and dramatic range while playing multiple versions of the exact same individual as the stakes continue to increase around them. Dorney has proven himself a master of this locked-room two-hander before with ‘Solitaire’ in The Companion Chronicles, and so it’s no surprise that he is able to maintain and incredible sense of tension and pace, and he wonderfully avoids the easy solution of having a fifty-fifty choice delineate human from robot by revealing a far more nefarious and audacious plot at hand. With Liv such a well-known and rounded character both from The Robots and Doctor Who, it’s Tula here who truly shows her ingenuity and calculating mentality, and her ability to uncover the intentions of the Company provides a strong segue into the series finale in a world that now truly knows no ethical or moral boundaries with every action, memory, and characteristic able to be analyzed and then programmed for maximum effect and advantage.

The Robots brings its planned six volumes to a close with Matt Fitton’s ‘The Final Hour,’ attempting to draw to a close the Company’s continued reach for all-pervasive power and the public’s growing unrest and fear as different groups try to assert control while the Chenkas fight for the common good and the clock ticks down to the Doctor’s stated arrival time to reunite with Liv one year after leaving her here. Admittedly, ‘The Final Hour’ is a bit sporadic in its storytelling, at times focusing on rather inconsequential affairs and withholding key scenes and information until much later than should have been expected based on plot progression. Nonetheless, it effectively- though in so doing leaving a tremendous narrative opportunity left unexplored- explains just why the Sons of Kaldor have been such a prominent yet splintered group that has managed to achieve such notoriety even against the might of the Company; the eventual inclusion of Sorkov also neatly brings together earlier affairs from this series with the increasing complexity and possible evolution of the robots themselves that has simultaneously been fostered and missed by the Company in its quest to insert itself into every element of the general populace’s lives. Jon Culshaw and Sarah Lambie wonderfully play the voices of this central conflict and help to create a genuine sense of urgency with each character implicitly believing in his or her cause, and the eventual subversion of the Company’s own schemes to work against it by openly revealing all of its secrets is a fitting culmination to this traumatic year that has brought the Chenka sisters so much closer together and that has ultimately set Kaldor on a new trajectory hopefully unburdened by the amoral overreach of the Company. Whether or not this does ultimately prove to be the final instalment of The Robots, ‘The Final Hour’ fairly effectively ties together loose ends for a series that has used loosely linked narratives to advance its overall plot. More importantly, however, it gives Walker and Rushbrook yet another chance to shine as all truths and motivations are revealed, and even with Liv departing to travel in the TARDIS once more within the Ravenous saga, the technology of Kaldor and the brilliant chemistry of these actors thankfully leaves the door open for Big Finish to easily return to this setting for further exploration should the urge arise. The Robots is a series about the advantages and fears associated with advancing technology, and the series has thrived precisely because of advances in technology that allowed work to continue despite the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic, both proving the indomitable nature of humanity and the true dedication and passion of everyone associated with Big Finish to bring these stories to vivid life.

This post was written by

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.