THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE AROUND SIX
YEARS AFTER THE BIG
FINISH AUDIO DRAMA
AND DIRECTLY PRIOR
TO "LUCIE MILLER."
BIG FINISH 8TH DOCTOR
CD#4.08 (ISBN 1-8443
5-482-5) RELEASED IN
Six years after being
captured by the org-
anisation known only
as The Consensus, the
Doctor lives inside a
hi-tech complex IN the
heart of an unstable
sun, condemned to an
its systems. A SINGLE
could cause the star
to collapse – and the
deaths of billions.
But rebel eyes have
their eyes on the sun
and its controller,
and are prepared to
risk even a galactic
cataclysm to secure
of the Sun
This fourth season of eighth Doctor audio dramas has been punctuated with more twists, swerves and slights of hand than any that have preceded it, and Prisoner of the Sun continues the trend apace. Here Eddie Robson weighs in with a short and bittersweet script that casts past and future companion Sheridan Smith in two antagonistic android roles and places Paul McGann’s Doctor inside a prison that he can never hope to a escape; a prison that’s all of his own making – his character.
The premise is inspired. As every monster and villain in time and space knows, you can’t kill the Doctor – at least, not permanently – and if you lock him away, he’ll only escape. It might take him a few years to do so, in one or two exceptional cases, but eight hundred and ninety-eight times out of nine hundred, he’ll have sonicked his way out of his holding cell within the space of a couple of scenes. The solution? Lock him away inside the core of unstable star, set him the task of maintaining its stability, and convince him that if he should ever leave, the star will go nova, wiping out the two billion lives that depend on its heat.
I won’t spoil the story’s twists and turns; suffice it to say that Robson does a tremendous job of building up and maintaining the intrigue. Is the Doctor only a prisoner of his own sense of duty? Or is the revelation of the grand deception a deception in itself, designed to trick him into annihilating a star system? McGann gives a magnificently melancholic performance as his Doctor visibly wrestles with his desperate longing to leave and his self-appointed burden, before rising to the meet the challenge of living up to the impossible expectations of those that champion him.
However, like the best stories in
this run, Prisoner is just as light
as it is heavy. The effects of the
Doctor’s isolation, for instance,
are not conveyed through syrupy
or maudlin dialogue, but through
his “customising” his android
assistants by giving them Lucie
Miller’s voice (and a fair few of
her character traits too). This then gives rise to a flood of humorous, even silly, moments that instil the production with a thoroughly endearing sense of charm.
The episode also boasts some remarkable supporting performances. As was the case with his Blue cohort in Max Warp, I was a bit skeptical as to how pop star Antony Costa may fare in an acting role, but his turn as Hagan is one of the finest in the play - I really couldn’t fathom his character’s intent until it was too late. Beth Chalmers is also on fine form here, bringing a whole new meaning to the word ‘mercurial’ in her character, whilst still preserving its old one in her performance. I look forward to hearing more from her later this year when she joins the ranks of Big Finish’s in-house companions in the seventh Doctor’s Lost Stories.
On a final note, Howard Carter must again be praised for his superlative sound design and score. As the principal events of this story take place deep within a particularly volatile sun, his soaring, blockbuster style is the perfect complement to the charged performances. At its best, this production sounds like a big-budget feature film.
Perhaps the best word to describe Prisoner of the Sun is ‘unique’. It puts a brand new twist on the ‘lone Doctor’ story, whilst offering us clues as to how, one day, the Time Lord might eventually come undone, and still managing to tell a cracking science fiction story to boot.
A beautiful coda to The Resurrection of Mars and a mouth-whetting lead-in to the season finale, Prisoner of the Sun is the perfect penultimate.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2011
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