THIS STORY TAKES
FINISH AUDIO DRAMAS
"PAPER CUTS" AND
"CITY OF SPIRES."
BIG FINISH CD#126
RELEASED IN SEPTEMBER
On Earth, civilization
has ended and time is
running out for the
Doctor and Charlotte
Viyrans really help?
Blue Forgotten Planet
After thoroughly enjoying Nicholas Briggs’ Patient Zero, and particularly after the amount of hype that this production enjoyed prior to its release, I don’t think that I could have been any more excited about Blue Forgotten Planet than I was when the CD finally dropped through my letterbox. Big Finish had no qualms about stating that this story was going to be Charlotte Pollard’s last bow, and little telling words like ‘demise’ and ‘death’ had even crept into certain podcasts and interviews. And then on top of that, we were promised the return of the enigmatic Viyrans; the resolution of a long-standing ‘wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey’ paradox; not to mention the showdown between Charley and the Doctor’s stalker, Mila, who at the start of this adventure is merrily masquerading as the Doctor’s companion whilst Charley languishes in the Viyrans’ freezer!
And just like Patient Zero – arguably even more so - Blue Forgotten Planet is a bona fide blockbuster. The whole feel of the piece is grand; the stakes are insurmountably high, and the tension builds up throughout until it becomes almost physically painful by the story’s end. Nicholas Briggs wears so many hats these days that his writing seldom attracts the praise that it warrants, but with both Patient Zero and this play he has proven beyond any doubt
that he is right up there with Doctor Who’s most lauded scribes.
“I was just remembering a good friend…”
The first thing that struck me about Blue Forgotten Planet was its cinematic splendour. Now ‘cinematic’ is not a word that one can often apply to audio drama, but if you close your eyes whilst Jamie Robertson’s stirring score ebbs and flows as the tides of Gralista Social’s lux-uriant oceans draw in over the lone sixth Doctor’s feet, then you will see that here the word really does apply.
“The virus is present as one dormant particle in every human being.
But there is a one in five point four billion chance that at some point
in the next seven thousand millennia a human being may contract the virus.”
Now all Charley / Mila trappings aside, Blue Forgotten Planet is still a phenomenal story
in its own right. The Viyrans are absolutely brilliant here; their obsessive dedication to their mission and that burning indifference to life that we have previously seen glimpses of are brought together in the most chilling of ways by Briggs’ script. The Viyrans fervent desire to remove the one in five billion chance that one of the Amethyst viruses might metastasise within a human being sees them inadvertently reduce the human race to mindless savages, before deciding to eradicate the ‘risk’ entirely by committing genocide. Talk about ruthless. And Michael Maloney (Patient Zero) plays the Viyrans so very well – at times he actually imbues them with what sounds like a little humanity, only to switch back to their cold, default monotone in the blink of an eye.
Briggs’ story also has a timeless quality to it that makes it feel much more immediate than most other ‘future Earth’ adventures - the post-apocalyptic Earth of this story could be sixty thousand years from now or, equally, just 28 days away. What’s more, the characters that inhabit this darkened world are a fascinating bunch who, it has to be said, are brought to
life splendidly by some truly first-rate actors. JJ Feild (Centurion) and Alec Newman (Star Trek: Enterprise) are especially impressive as the antagonistic leaders of the two groups of survivors. On audio, Feild sounds uncannily like Alan Rickman, which makes him absolutely perfect for the part Viyran collaborator McCallister.
Turning to the regulars, India Fisher is on fire in her final performance, playing not only the Edwardian Adventuress that we all know and love, but Mila too. Fisher does a tremendous job of giving Charley that one final and emotional adventure that she deserves, whilst at the same time having us warm to Mila, and begin to see her as something more than just a nut-job. Indeed, by the final episode, I think it is fair to say that there are two Charlotte Pollards
in the truest sense. As such it seems that I was a little bit hasty in my condemnation of Marc Platt’s portrayal of Mila in Paper Cuts; Blue Forgotten Planet posits that, after Patient Zero, the Doctor and Mila enjoyed many adventures together that we haven’t been privy to, all the time growing closer, and all the time Mila becoming more and more like Charley.
Colin Baker, likewise, is on inspirational form. With the Big Finish market so flooded with sixth Doctor releases this year, it’s easy to take old Sixy for granted, but in Blue Forgotten Planet he reminds us why he’s the Doctor when it comes to Big Finish audios. Within these two hours he will make you laugh, cheer and cry… and probably in that order.
“The Viyran device is so powerful, it’d be lethal to touch the disseminator…”
And then we come to the climax. In a way, because Big Finish had been so overt about Charley’s rueful rate, I half-expected some sort of last-minute swerve. To their credit though, Charley’s fate is about as final as it can be without being double-underlined in red, and I for one found it utterly fulfilling. There is one moment in particular when your heart will just break.
“I think you’ll find my memory is rather more robust than most…”
What really got me though was the Doctor’s sorry plight. Inevitably, he had to be relieved of his memories of Charley at some point prior to Storm Warning (and of course the Viyrans are masters when it comes to rearranging memories, as has been explicit since their first appearance back in 2007’s Mission of the Viyrans. You’d almost think Big Finish had it planned...) but the way in which this erasure comes about makes it a real choker to listen
to. And if that doesn’t get you, the final Gralista Social bookend will.
“Which one are you. Are you Charlotte Pollard?”
The fact that Blue Forgotten Planet manages to feel ambiguous, yet still offer firm closure,
I think speaks volumes about Briggs’ skill as writer. And so when combined with the diffuse array of blockbuster elements that have been thrown into the mix here, I really can’t see how anyone could not instantly fall in love with this production. It’s certainly one of my favourites; a sentiment that should really carry some weight given that it has the number ‘126’ etched on its spine.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2009
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
At the end of this story, Charley Pollard uses Viyran technology to corrupt the Doctor’s memories of her,
re-writing them so that he remembers both his adventures with her and his subsequent adventures with Mila (wearing Charley’s form!) as being adventures with Mila (wearing her own form). This explains why the eighth Doctor doesn’t recognise Charley when he meets her on board the airship R101 in Storm Warning.
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