THIS STORY TAKES
"RETURN OF THE
KROTONS" AND (THE
OPENING SCENE OF)
BIG FINISH CD#116
RELEASED IN DECEMBER
Having just defeated
the Krotons, the
Doctor is treating
Charley to a hearty
when an intriguing
presents itself. And
to solve it, they must
plunge back into the
of Manchester, where
an old friend is up to
her neck in alien
But what seemed like
a mere mystery ends
up being a life or
death struggle at the
centre of an
in which the stakes
are so high, the
Doctor or Charley
must gamble and lose
their identity. And
throughout, the lone
figure of the
Raincloud Man may
hold the key to
success or failure.
The Raincloud Man
Back in February, Eddie Robson kicked off one of Big Finish’s most ambitious story arcs to date with “The Condemned” - a gritty, present-day police procedural piece, which not only paired up the sixth Doctor and Charley for the first time, but also introduced us to Anna Hope’s unforgettable Detective Inspector Menzies.
To say that the general response to “The Condemned” was ‘positive’ would be understating things somewhat.
And now, as I write this, it is almost Christmas, and all three of the abovementioned characters are back in “The Raincloud Man” - a play that, in my view at least, surpasses
even “The Condemned”. And so with Big Finish Productions’ final monthly release of 2008
perhaps the pick of the year, some comment about ‘saving the best until last’ would thus seem appropriate.
Listening to “The Raincloud Man”, the first thing that struck me was how beautiful the whole thing sounded. Here there is such a captivating mix of colourful brogues; heavy weapons fire; and understated, atmospheric music.
To be fair though, the aural opulence of this play is not altogether surprising considering the talent of those involved. Robson is one of Big Finish’s standout writers - even on a bad day, his efforts are always at least very good, and most are downright outstanding. What’s more, head honcho Nicholas Briggs has got directing these audio plays down to an art, and as for the cast, well… Colin Baker, India Fisher, and especially Anna Hope give truly exceptional performances, and the rest of the ensemble is not far behind. Octavia Walters - who plays the time traveller who lost her time machine and all her knowledge of time travel in a bet! – gives a performance that ranges from hapless to hilarious, and then conversely the Raincloud Man himself, Simon Sherlock, brings a delightfully morose quality to the proceedings.
Turning to the story itself, I love the way in which Robson’s plots unfold, grabbing you and gradually pulling you further and further in. What starts off as something so clear-cut – the Doctor investigating a temporally congruous piece of coinage – soon snowballs as he becomes caught up in an apparently separate, but of course interconnected, criminal investigation. Before you know it there is an interplanetary war raging on boat. Brilliant.
And if the devil is in the detail, then Robson again has to be given credit for his execution. Take the two warring alien races, the Tabbalac and the Cyrox. They are equal and opposite to each other in every respect; the latter created to keep the former in check - hardly your run of the mill ciphers. And some of the scenes in this play are absolute gold – you do not need any fingers at all to be able count the amount of times that the Doctor has saved the day by playing Top Trumps! Talk about innovative. As ever, Robson’s script is very now. Let us just hope that when Doctor Who returns to our screens in 2010 for its next full run on television, writers like Robson are given the chance they deserve to bring fantastic stories like this to the masses.
My only possible grumble about this play would be that Menzies did not join the Doctor and Charley in the TARDIS at the end of the story, although with the Charley storyline still up in
the air this was an understandable – but no less shattering - decision. What would be nice though (and perhaps a tad more realistic) is if Menzies and the Met could become the audio answer to the Brigadier and UNIT. Menzies’ dry, no-nonsense outlook certainly puts me in mind of the old Brig.
"You don't seem to realise how much the timeline hates you being here. If it was a cat,
it would be hissing at you right now. If you won't tell him, I will."
Now from listening to the CD Extras, I understand that a story called “Blue Forgotten Planet” was dropped in favour this one as Big Finish did not want this sixth Doctor and Charley arc to come to an end (as I gather it would have done in that play). Even so, “The Raincloud
Man” is certainly not shy about driving this massive arc forwards - there must be ten or more occasions in these four episodes in which the Doctor very nearly finds out about Charley being from his future. For starters we have a temporally-sensitive chap who can see the paradox, and is actually pained by it; and then we have Brooks, who wants to obtain Charley’s memories of her time with the Doctor - all of them; hell, even Menzies finds out! But by the end of “The Raincloud Man”, the penny finally appears to have dropped for the Doctor and, for the very first time, he confronts Charley directly… just before the theme
music kicks in! Boo!
And so where do we go from here? “The Raincloud Man” positively pushes the storyline to breaking point, but I still feel that there is distance left to run for these two together, provided of course that they get this paradox out in the open and, hopefully, go somewhere very interesting indeed with it. Who knows? Perhaps it will all tie into all Charley’s former problems with the web of time that are, from the Doctor’s view, yet to come. This whole arc could turn out to have been truly inspired...
And so, credit crunch or not, I cannot do anything but advise you to rush off and download; order; or otherwise purchase this one (together with “The Condemned”, ideally, if you have not done so already). It is without a doubt a future classic.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2008
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