THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE
BIG FINISH AUDIOS
"SEASONS OF FEAR"
RETURN OF THE SWARM
BIG FINISH CD#31
RELEASED IN APRIL
The Doctor travels
to the Cimmerian
System to unravel
the mystery of its
sun, But darkness
has embraced the
scientific base on
Cimmeria IV in more
ways than one.
the Doctor must use
all his wits against
a deadly artificial
life-form and a race
whose return to the
suffering and death
on an apocalyptic
Embrace the Darkness
Ever since Big Finish released their first Doctor Who audio drama, The Sirens of Time, in 1999, listeners have remarked upon how hauntingly redolent their productions are. They are, effectively, television programmes without the picture. But what if the programme wasn’t meant to have a picture? When crafting a drama for audio, why not make its primary setting one of complete darkness?
The thought behind Embrace the Darkness was certainly inspired; however its innovation seems to end with its gimmick. Hot on the heels of productions the calibre of The Chimes
of Midnight and Seasons of Fear, writer and director Nicholas Briggs had his work cut out for him here, and while his story ticks all the right boxes, and is perhaps even a little more troubling than most when the lights are out, it is still far from exceptional.
What stands out above all else about Embrace the Darkness is its gore. With the lights out, Briggs does a breathtaking job of conveying the characters’ reactions to the events around them. We can’t see the humans having their eyes burnt out by the Cimmerians, but we can hear Orllensa’s tortured voice as she struggles to come to terms with what has been done
to her, which personally I find altogether more effective. Indeed, Nicola Boyce’s traumatised performance was the highlight of the production for me.
Briggs’ ‘ROSM’ android, in ruthlessly applying its company orders and sheer logic, also proves a frustratingly fearsome adversary at times, especially in Part 1 where it identifies Charley as having “malignant cells” and thus attempts to destroy her. Regrettably though, much of the story’s terror is undone by its blithe, almost happy ending, which leaves one
with the distinct impression that they’ve just heard a nursery rhyme and ‘the moral of the
story is…’ Indeed, the whole plot is borne of misunderstandings, false assumptions, and judging by appearances.
Briggs’ exploration of such weary
concepts quickly grates, though it
does at least allow him to critique
the Doctor in an interesting way,
specifically with reference to his
habitual interfering. It seems that
by this point in his lives the Doctor
is becoming a tad self-conscious
about his meddling, possibly the
result of his gung-ho rescue of
Charley from the R101 and its observable consequences. This leads to one especially affecting scene between the Doctor and his companion, which sees her accuse him of wanting die to appease his conscience with no thought for what would happen to her if he did.
When all’s said and done, Embrace the Darkness is an inventive and interesting adventure, but one that I fear is destined to fade into the darkness, surrounded as it is by such peerless labours.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2006
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
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