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Thursday, February 16, 2006

Big Finish: Doctor Who Audio Adventure #79 - Night Thoughts

The most recent Big Finish Doctor Who audio adventure is a great example of one of my biggest complaints of the property. Well, not really of the property, but of the creators. Doctor Who is a science fiction program. That is true. However, from it's very foundation it is a science fiction property that can be, quite literally, anything at any time. Because the main character is a being capable of traveling through time and space, the program can be of any genre set in any time. Spy serial? Sure, look at Jon Pertwee episodes. Hard futuristic sci-fi? Sure, the Peter Davison episodes match that pretty well. A Holmsian murder mystery? Sure, been there done that. Comedy? Why not? The show can be anything at anytime. And my complaint is that the creators do not take advantage of that anywhere near as often as they should.

And "Night Thoughts" is the perfect example of that.

The first three episodes of the story are a great Christiesque murder mystery. A group of people stranded in a mansion (well, I assume it's a mansion, that is not made absolutely clear) on an island. They all share a secret, and because of that secret someone is picking them off one by one. It's into this situation that the Doctor (Sylvester McCoy), Ace (Sophie Aldred) and Hex (Philip Olivier) materialize.

Like I said, the first three episodes are great, very moody and atmospheric. The killer is a non-speaking, shadowy figure skulking in the darkness and luring people to their deaths with a tape recording of the Doctor. As the plot unfolds, relationships are established, motives are explained and secrets are revealed... but then comes episode four, when it all becomes one great big flubber of a clichéd sci-fi time travel story. Even worse, it's a cliché-riddled muddled mess of a time travel story that doesn't make any sense. I mean, when all the clues are added together, one character clearly stands exposed as the murderer. But, that is all destroyed in a completely throwaway moment when he's confronted with that fact and he answers saying that he knows nothing about the murders.

So, why, other than to provide that one last twist, and to justify the "Science Fiction" label would they add the whole muddled mess of a time travel story. The program has done similar things throughout it's history. There have been plenty of possible murder-mystery or historical stories ruined because the writer decided he had to throw in some aliens, or time travel, or some other sci-fi cliché, just because it's Doctor Who.

And even worse, the plotting of the "evil mastermind" in this story is asinine. I don't want to ruin it, but he's trying to use time travel to create an army of zombies, just to wreak havoc. Don't ask how this might make sense, it doesn't to me either and I've heard the story explanation. Unfortunately, his prototype is not pleased and decides to take out those responsible for her existence.


Well, three-fourths of a great story is still a good ride. Just switch off episode four and write your own ending, it'll probably be better than the one on the CD.


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