THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE BIG
FINISH AUDIO DRAMAS
"MEMORY LANE" AND
"THE GIRL WHO NEVER
SCOTT ALAN WOODARD
BIG FINISH CD#101
RELEASED IN OCTOBER
The Tardis breaks
down in a forbidden
sector of space.
Ghostly voices cry
out for salvation
and only C'rizz can
answer their call -
for only he knows
the secret of the
Absolver. But will
he use it to rescue
his friends or save
The Doctor's sins
are catching up
with him and the
infernal beast is
hungry. Time is
running out and
Judgement Day is
Welcome to Hell.
It’s been commonly known for a while now that C’rizz would soon be parting ways with the Doctor and Charley. And as December’s Girl Who Never Was doesn’t list Conrad Westmaas in the cast list, it didn’t require the wielding of mesmerising powers of deduction to reason that Absolution would mark the end of the road for the troubled Eutermesan.
In truth, I’ve long been looking forward to this one. Although he was only really introduced to serve as guide to the Divergent universe for the Doctor and Charley (and even perhaps, as Westmaas speculates in the CD extras, as a gooseberry, to kill any romance between the Doctor and Charley!), I have always been rather taken with C’rizz. As companions go, he is unique in the truest sense of the word. Not only is he a chameleonic life form from another universe but, unbeknownst to his travelling companions, he’s also a mass murderer with the souls of each and every one of his victims living inside his overcrowded head. To date, Big Finish have really done wonders with this guy and I think that it’s fair to say that this play ties up all the threads of C’rizz’s story arc impeccably.
Absolution - noun. ab·so·lu·tion [ab-suh-loo-shuhn]
The remission of sins granted by a chosen emancipator of the Church of the Foundation. An emancipator handpicked from the Eutermesan masses and rewarded for obedience and total devotion. One governed by the laws of a timeless universe to which, should he ever leave it, he may never ever return. Out here amongst these wandering souls; souls who call to me and beg me to join them. Out here those laws no longer apply.
Absolution might as well have been
called Seduction. Separated from
the Doctor and Charley, C’rizz falls
under the influence of the decidedly
manipulative Aboresh who exploits
C’rizz’s desire to ‘save’ both his friends and the denizens of Utebbadon-Tarria who’ve been haunting his dreams for so long. Aboresh uses the old “Darth Sidious” argument of the more powerful one becomes, the more protection one can offer to his loved ones. And, no doubt owing much to his genetic predilection, C’rizz falls for it hook, line and sinker.
And over the course of Absolution, C’rizz does indeed become powerful; horrifyingly so.
So powerful, in fact, that by the fourth episode he has become, as so many fans accurately predicted, an outright monster that is the spit of the Devil and poses more of a threat to our universe than Zagreus or Keep ever did. But – much to my astonishment – in a last-minute twist, C’rizz sacrifices himself to save the Doctor and Charley. Note the lack of inverted commas here – I don’t mean ‘save’ as in murder them and carry their souls around in the hope that one day they will be given eternal life, I mean save as in save their lives. For a moment I’d forgotten that this is Doctor Who, and that as such C’rizz was never going to become irredeemably evil and meet his end as a villain. Had he done so, I sincerely doubt that Absolution would have packed the same kind of emotional punch that it does ending with C’rizz’s return to grace. At the end of the day, the Doctor and Charley had influenced C’rizz to such a degree that, even when seduced by such unimaginable power, he had the fortitude to grow beyond his genetic programming and become more than the sum of his parts. He was grown to serve as an Absolver to the Church of the Foundation, but he died better than that. More than that.
Moreover, quite often (and certainly much more regularly of late) a play’s cover art has really influenced the images that form in my mind whilst listening – the most pertinent example that immediately leaps to mind is the recent Exotron. Similarly here, before I’d even inserted the first disc of Absolution into my CD player, I already had a vivid picture of Utebbadon-Tarria in my mind thanks to Alex Mallinson’s peerless artwork. The front cover is truly spectacular, encapsulating the play absolutely; that central image of C’rizz as the Devil, burning, is really what the play is all about.
Above: Alex Mallinson’s peerless artwork awesomely depicts the citadel and the planet of fire beyond it...
But the liner booklet reveals even more – the centrefold awesomely depicts the citadel and the planet of fire beyond it, not to mention the three main supporting characters looking all Jedi-like in their robes. This immediately put me in mind of the planet Mustafar seen in the latest Star Wars movie, where Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker fought their iconic lightsaber duel - quite a fitting image to conjure up, considering the nature of the story that Scott Alan Woodard is telling here. Absolution is truly a play that burns inside the mind of
listeners in every conceivable sense.
What’s more, rivers of lava and beasts from hell aside, the play is satiated with powerful imagery, such as the TARDIS console gushing blood, and adulterous, mutant wives being chained up for millennia. However, of all the hellish imagery that Absolution boasts, the one image that lingers the longest is that of C’rizz turning to dust as the Doctor says “Where to next? How about a spot of comedio de late?” to an understandably distraught Charley.
The Doctor’s complete and utter lack of reverence surprised me even more than C’rizz’s stirring redemption. It’s one thing to have this “always moving on” mindset, but quite another to deal with the passing of friend so very badly that it’s almost embarrassing.
CHARLEY How can you be like this… Doctor, C’rizz is dead. He just turned to dust in
front of us and… look at you, all smiles and ‘where to next Charley’! Just
now, you said ‘back to the way it was before’. You meant before C’rizz,
didn’t you? It’s almost as if you are glad; glad he’s gone. Is that it?
THE DOCTOR Charley I don’t know what to say to you. I know what’s happened is painful
for you… People come and go… It’s not…look it’s not I don’t care about
them but… Charley, everybody leaves… When it comes down to it, it’s
just me and the TARDIS.
CHARLEY Take me home.
Listening to the scene, you can almost tangibly feel the Doctor rummaging around for the kind of speech that he would later give to Rose in School Reunion but, presumably due to his veiled grief, he just can’t seem to articulate what he wants to say. At one point Charley even accuses him of being glad that C’rizz is dead, and the Doctor makes only the most
half-hearted of attempts to deny it. And so Charley packs her bags – she’d rather go back
to the flaming wreck of the R101 than spend another second in the company a man who apparently cares more about his TARDIS than he does about his friends. I can’t stress enough how very well Paul McGann and India Fisher play this last, critical scene. Both of them give terrific performances throughout the play, but here they both really, really shine
in a way that neither has done since Scherzo.
And as for the supporting cast, it
has to be said that it is one of the
finest troupes that Big Finish have
assembled to date. Gene Hunt’s
big brother, Robert Glenister - who
is of course familiar to millions as
‘fixer’ Ash Morgan in Hustle - puts in a chilling, Ian McDiarmid-esque
turn as Aboresh, and Christopher
Villiers of Emmerdale fame is every
bit as imposing as his troubled counterpart, Cacothis. If truth be told, each member of the ensemble cast acquits themselves commendably, but none more so than the undisputed
star of this one, Conrad Westmaas. From his opening monologue right to his death throes, Westmaas manages to imbue every syllable of every word with the excruciating torment
that burns inside C’rizz’s head.
In years to come, this audio play will doubtless be spoken of in the same breath as the likes of Earthshock and perhaps even Doomsday. With Absolution, Woodard has penned one
of the most memorable companion departure stories ever; one that Alan Barnes will be hard pressed to top come December when its Charley’s turn for the chop. An absolute triumph in every respect.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2007
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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