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Jan 21, 2007

Toga Party

Toga Εάν διαβάσετε τα οποιαδήποτε ελληνικά ξέρετε ότι αυτό δεν έχει μεταφραστεί πολύ καλά από τα ψάρια της Βαβέλ. Αλλά σκέφτηκα ότι ήταν ένας τρόπος διασκέδασης που είναι εκεί SPOILERS και ότι πρέπει LISTEN εδώ πρώτα.  Όχι ότι καθένα στο πράγμα είναι πραγματικά ελληνικά, το οποίο καθιστά αυτήν την συσκευή άσχετη. καλά.

When the BBC7 announcer suggested before Immortal Beloved that it would contain 'amoral Gods and brutal murder', it sounded as though this was going to be the audio equivalent of Torchwood, throwing out family thrills and spills and favour of gritty faux-realism.  In the event, this was pretty dark stuff, with shootings, stabbings, attempted suicide and randy old men, and in places fairly uncomfortable listening in this early evening time-slot.  I wondered if any youngsters tuning in  would be able to cope with some of the blacker elements.

This begins as one of those quite bizarre stories that have been the hallmark of Big Finish's Eighth Doctor stories, in which it's entirely impossible to tell were the writer, in this case, Big Finish veteran Jonathan Clements got his ideas from.  The Tardis, once again bouncing off Blackpool, lands in what seems to be Ancient Greece at the site of a potential teen suicide and just as this looks like it's going to be a rerun of The Mythmakers, technology intercedes in the form of a walkie-talkie and helicopters and suggests that the story is going to be far more complex than that (nice use of sound here as the sound of static cuts through the listener's perceptual expectations in a way that simply wouldn't have been surprising visually).

"nice use of sound here as the sound of static cuts through the listener's perceptual expectations in a way that simply wouldn't have been surprising visually"

But then it transpires that yet another group of human colonists have crash landed somewhere and are using technology to continue their existence across centuries, taking the mantle of Gods in order to keep those surrounding them in check.  Shades of State of Decay then, except instead of vampirism, their method is mind swapping into clones and suddenly the mix is poisoned by a dollop of New Earth which isn't be a good thing.  What is it with mind transference in the Whoniverse?  I mean it's only been a couple of weeks since it was used as the big surprise cliffhanger in the middle of Blood of the Daleks, the poor young pizza girl in Cyberwoman and before that Cassandra and Peri and here it is again as a main plot strand.

The enduring problem with Doctor Who is that nothing is new anymore; unless it's deliberately pastiching some new film genre or narrative technique, its been storytelling for so long it's bound to repeat itself.  Disappointingly, unlike recent stories, Immortal Beloved didn't recognize then demonstrate that it wasn't doing anything new.  I'm not saying that it needed some wonking great continuity reference, like the Doctor saying 'when I was on a planet in E-Space and Zargo, Camilla, and Aukon didn't succeed and neither will you', just something indicating that the writer is aware of the similarities, overcomes them and presents a twist or a few surprises.  But as the climax played out, so reminiscent of the film Freejack, it became apparent that this was going in the direction you were expecting despite the post-modern trappings and body horror.

"The enduring problem with Doctor Who is that nothing is new anymore; unless it's deliberately pastiching some new film genre or narrative technique, its been storytelling for so long it's bound to repeat itself. "

It wasn't a good story for the Doctor.  Apart from the customary rants, some persuading at the top and some technological jiggery pokery at the bottom, the time lord was a bit of a bystander as the details of the plot unfolded around him, with characters like Zeus all too happy to explain everything.  Lucie too fulfilled the more traditional companion role, being captured, threatened and standing around looking horrified with only a final peculiar decision to try and destroy her only means of escape to suggest that she wasn't doing anything that might not have worked with anyone else. 

This recalls the early Hartnell era, but for me the Doctor needs to be a more vital presence than this - I really couldn't understand why he didn't simply break the machine doing all the damage and be done with it, instead of standing around chatting about parts.  If this was to do with the Doctor understanding their need for immortality because of his own being that wasn't made clear.  I mean sure, sometimes the Doctor likes to let the people he meets make their own decisions about their future, but it's not like he's lately followed some Prime Directive, and this made even less sense with all the moaning about not trying to save Ares if it had meant Tayden would die.

"The Doctor and Lucie have become an excellent double act, the twist being that the former has become the deadpan straight man to the latter and knows it and actually seems to be enjoying it. "

Which isn't to say that the journey wasn't a bit fun, there was much to enjoy.  As usual with this series, the dialogue effervesced.  The Doctor and Lucie have become an excellent double act, the twist being that the former has become the deadpan straight man to the latter and knows it and actually seems to be enjoying it.  The moment in the decontamination chamber when Lucie realised that she wasn't in the altogether was exquisite as was her reaction to Zeus's advances.  Notice too that once again, it wasn't afraid to note its own continuity with the Doctor mentioning the reactions of his own granddaughter.

Elsewhere, those 'gods' from Zeus downwards were mostly pretty loveable in a Sunday night sitcom way, only taking their subterfuge seriously enough to fool their acolytes, making them fairly benign antagonists.  It made a change to have some nice if still homicidal loonies but it also means that at no point did the traveling companions themselves seem too threatened.  The danger of creating a hundred Lucies to be killed in various ways seemed a bit empty so the Doctor only really appeared to stick around so that the course of love between the acolytes could run smooth along with the usual regime change.     The use of ancient terms to describe the new technology was a brilliant choice though.

The performances were worth the fifty minutes of my time alone.  Recently I've been watching the BBC's production of Shakespeare from the seventies and eighties and the casting and production for this adventure reminded me of those, which isn't surprising since the namechecked Romeo and Juliet was an inspiration.  From old hands Ian McNeice and Elspeth Grey brought their years of experience and timing as Zeus and Hera, whilst newbies Anthony Spargo (Kalkin), Jennifer Higham (Sararti) and David Dobson (in the dual roles of Tayden and Ares) had a vital energy and Jake McGann as Ganymede is to be commended for keeping up with his Dad, Paul.

"The music wasn't particularly memorable, in that I can't remember what it sounded like right now."

The music wasn't particularly memorable, in that I can't remember what it sounded like right now (but then I'm very tired).  As has become pleasingly standard in this new series, the sound design had real gusto and I could certainly imagine everything very clearly -- the thundering sound of the helicopters was really impressive.  It is weird though, that in this medium in which any visual is possible, any landscape describable that Big Finish have a habit of still keeping its narratives contained within so few locations.  Not everything needs to be as epic as Seasons of Fear, but there's no reason to take the second word in the description 'audio play' quite so literally.  There wasn't anything here that couldn't have been filmed on the set of The Keeper of Traken.  Except perhaps for those helicopters.

Next Week: Phobos.  Presumably without the hint of a leather goddess.

Comments

Nice review.

I get the impression you think that this was a step down from the enjoyably frothy Horror of Glam Rock, and I would agree.

You are right in that there is lot reminiscent of New Earth (shudder) in this story.

However, this was more successful than that Cat Nurse story as the science-fictional ideas were blended smoothly with the human drama.

One joke I was sure they were going to do, when discussing multiple clones was to suggest Poseidon and Neptune (Roman clone version) bickering, but the punchline instead was "Jeffrey"...

Anything's better than New Earth. I just felt that the writing was pinning a lot on the audience's revulsion at what was taking place but we failed to care to much because everyone was being so genial about it. The pacing was certainly of a theatrical nature too which unfortunately meant that it felt slightly padded. But oddly enough, I did still enjoy it because the performances and dialogue were mostly top notch. Very paradoxical.

"The enduring problem with Doctor Who is that nothing is new anymore; unless it's deliberately pastiching some new film genre or narrative technique, i's been storytelling for so long it's bound to repeat itself."

I disagree. It's still essentially playing back quite old SF tropes, without really exploring all the new things that have happened since oh say the New Wave of the late 60s. There's plenty of potential new ground for it to cover.

Ooh Mike, do tell, what new ground? That's tantalising.

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