THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE BIG
BIG FINISH 8TH DOCTOR
CD#3.4 (ISBN 1-84435-
396-5) RELEASED IN
Doctor lands In
middle of one of
make a difference
would be like
for a cease-
on the Somme.
The Doctor lands In
the middle of one of
the human race’s
of history. Trying
to make a difference
here would be like
standing up and
calling for a cease-
fire on the Somme.
18TH APRIL 2009 - 25TH APRIL 2009
It’s funny – one of the themes that runs through Wirrn Dawn is that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, yet when the Wirrn last appeared in Gary Russell’s 1998 novel Placebo Effect, Black Sheep’s cover illustration pretty much encapsulated the whole story, and the same is now true of Wirrn Dawn. Alex Mallinson’s evocative cover art promises a down and dirty space opera with perhaps just a smattering of the poetic, and that’s exactly what you get for your money.
However, beyond both stories being appropriately packaged, Wirrn Dawn shares very little else with Placebo Effect. Russell’s novel spent more time fleshing out the mafia-like culture of the Foamasi than it did re-establishing the Wirrrn (sic), whereas right from its ambitious opening battle Nicholas Briggs’ two-parter proudly showcases the monstrous parasites in
all their starship-munching splendour.
The first episode of Briggs’ story
in particular is incredibly action-
packed. The first ten minutes or
so feature set-piece after set-
piece that you really would not
think could work on audio, yet
they do, and splendidly so. At
one point, for instance, Briggs has the Doctor and Lucie drifting through space in space suits, the Galsec colonists’ ship having just been devoured by the Wirrn. Desperate to get back to the TARDIS, the Doctor fires up his jetpacks and Lucie clings on for dear life, but there is trouble on the way….
“The dawn was near. No-one knew why it always happened at dawn.
But that was the way it used to be. The way of nature. The way it had to be…”
Part 2 is less dynamic, however, but is still every bit as riveting. Briggs explains a lot about how the Wirrn function and reproduce, positing that when a Wirrn gestates inside a human being, it retains the intelligence of and perhaps even the sensibilities of its host, whereas if
it gestates inside, say, a cow, then it is only has the intelligence and morals of that creature. This poses a difficult dilemma for the Doctor when the Wirrn Queen infects a high-ranking human military officer, as he realises that allowing the Queen to gestate could instil a human level of intelligence within the Wirrn once again, making them capable of living in peace if
not downright peaceable. On the other hand, in allowing the Queen to gestate, a human has to die, and it is a human that has made it unequivocally clear that she would rather be killed than become Wirrn. She even begs for death at one point, but Lucie intervenes, preventing Trooper Salway from taking her life in a mercy killing. It’s provocative material to say the least, and moreover it once again hammers home just how alien the Doctor is, as well as how much Lucie is becoming like him. Survival can be a messy business…
Wirrn Dawn is also notable for featuring some great performances. True to form both Paul McGann and Sheridan Smith dazzle once again, as does Colin Salmon of Silence in the Library fame, but it really has to be said that young Sarah Jane Adventures regular Daniel Anthony is every bit their equal as the ‘Indig’ bedwetter, Delong. This young man, who is of course no stranger to the audio medium having recently played Will Parry in the BBC Radio 4 adaptation of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, is certainly one to watch out for. In Wirrn Dawn, his character’s lineage and knowledge of his forbearers’ Wirrn-appeasing practices make him central to the story’s resolution, but it is his reaction to the Time Lord’s proposed solution that really impresses. The choice made by the Doctor and his companion is certainly a contentious one – even the Doctor second guesses himself - and so it’s nice to see this uncomfortableness reflected through the actions of an otherwise friendly character, even if in the end he does come round to the Doctor’s way of thinking.
“How was he wise? Sacrificing one of his own to those monsters every season.
The Indigs were nothing more than barbarians. I’m not proud of them!”
On a more practical note, Wirrn Dawn was the first of this season of stories that I had some difficulties in trying download. For a change, I decided to try listening to the two episodes as they were released, and though I managed to download the first episode without a problem, I couldn’t get the second to work. However, one quick e-mail to Big Finish swiftly rectified the problem, and so it’s difficult to complain in the circumstances.
My only real grumble is that the CD Extras are not included in the zip file when downloading the episodes separately, whereas for both Hothouse and The Beast of Orlok I was able to essentially just download the whole CD as soon as both episodes had been released. Still, doing things this way I did at least manage to get hold of one of Briggs’ much-hyped ‘In the Next Episode…’ trailers, which had eluded me until now!
And so in all, abounding as it is with some epic set pieces and some poetic dialogue, Wirrn Dawn is a release that I’d wholeheartedly recommend, particularly to those with a penchant for mid-1970s monsters. Briggs even spells ‘Wirrn’ correctly.
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.
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