Time Reef and A Perfect World

Posted in Audio by - July 19, 2016
Time Reef and A Perfect World

Released September 2008

Continuing with the Thomas Brewster interlude into the Fifth Doctor’s travels, ‘Time Reef’ finds the Doctor, Nyssa, and Brewster crash onto an uncharted time reef while following a distress beacon. Finding Commander Gammades and his war heroes as well as the beautiful Lady Vuyoki who have likewise been marooned, a greater mystery arises as they all try to survive the carnivorous Ruhk.

While ‘Time Reef’ itself may not be a lasting classic, it certainly gives Peter Davison ample opportunity to shine as he steps outside of his usual comfort zone. It’s rare that the Doctor has to show fear or dread, but Davison duly delivers as his life is seriously threatened and the TARDIS is seemingly permanently taken from him. This pairs nicely with his stern and sometimes terrifying interactions with Brewster who made some modifications to the interior of the TARDIS himself on his stolen excursion, even if there is a level of underscored sympathy between the two regarding the overbearing fear that traveling blindly into space and time can bring.

The prospect of the Doctor having previously visited the time reef and impacting the lives of those there is intriguing, but expectations are subverted as, rather than a story dealing with unintended consequences of the Doctor’s previous actions, the story instead becomes about the consequences of Thomas Brewster pretending to be the Doctor. While Brewster insists he was only gone for a moment, the piling evidence clearly suggests otherwise, potentially setting up future storylines in other locales where the Doctor must clear his name as well. While it’s never perfectly clear just how the situation came to be given the supposed psychic control and the TARDIS’s own intelligence, the idea of Brewster looting the TARDIS for profit and unknowingly creating the situation himself is still a strong basis for this story. The consequences of pretending to be the Doctor do rear their head for Brewster, and he does at least eventually accept the burden of responsibility.

As always, Marc Platt fills his story with fantastic ideas and imagery, a woman reposed in an urn and pan-dimensional bird creatures struggling to exist within the constraints of three dimensions being prime examples. The setting itself is almost poetic as well, a collection of space coral less than an hour’s walk in circumference that exists where nothing should be able to exist, the outside lights being the energy of the time vortex running against the surface of the reality bubble that the salvaged TARDIS conceptual geometer created. The sound design helps the mysterious Ruhk and reef setting come to life as well, bringing a certain evocative nature to this very strange tale.

Ultimately, though, the creativity of the notions on display will be a bit of a divisive point for some. For as high-concept as they are, they also depend a little too much on technobabble and sometimes veer into the territory of the absurd. This is especially true for the villainous character of Lady Vuyoki, an ostentatiously brash creation that undeniably captures the listeners’ attention and imagination. Unfortunately, as a result the rest of the supporting characters and even the regulars are shuffled a little bit too much to the side as the setting and villain take prominence. This sadly means that there is little emotional interaction to deal with the repercussions of Brewster’s actions, certainly a missed opportunity for an anchor for the strange events on display.

‘A Perfect World’ is the one-part accompaniment to the three-part ‘Time Reef,’ finding Brewster in awe of modern-day London and its many excesses. It’s refreshingly simple to see this character build a relationship with somebody from his future, comparing the similarities and differences, though of course things go horribly wrong when he suddenly wakes up to find that everything and everyone in the world except for him is absolutely perfect. It’s a clever conceit and one that works very well, and while it’s unfortunate that there isn’t more time dedicated to this storyline, ‘A Perfect World’ continues the strange pattern of the one-part release outshining the three-part main story. This is the story that shows his potential as a true companion, giving him strong dialogue and plenty of characterization, something that has been lacking so far for him.

  • Release Date: 9/2008
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