Trapped on a dying world, the Doctor and Charley come face-to-face with those responsible for the war to end wars, while C’rizz tries to understand what has happened and learns the terrible truth.
Powerful forces are at work on Bortresoye that not even a nuclear holocaust can tame; natural forces that have excited the interest of Excelsior, the self-proclaimed saviour of her people.
With Charley immobilised and C’rizz left to battle against the elements with some of the victims of war, one final, desperate hope of escape presents itself to the travellers.
But who will be the last to leave the planet? Who will have to stay behind? And will the Doctor, Charley and C’rizz live long enough to find out?
This is certainly an example of Big Finish testing the limits of what they could do with their licence in the early days. It is probably not a stretch of the imagination to say that this story is not one that would not be made now by Big Finish.
We’ve finally managed to achieve the destruction of our planet.Minister Tralfinial
Whilst this story is not one that I will be rushing to revisit, I cannot deny that it is very well written and quite compelling. Gary Hopkins’ story is set in the aftermath of a nuclear apocalypse and subsequently feels quite bleak and nihlistic – it is a story where the Doctor is naturally going to rub up against and feel quite alien. One thing I would say is that each part of this story is over 30 minutes long, and in fact the first three parts are closer to forty minutes by the time the closing credits have concluded, and I don’t feel like the story really justifies this extended run time. Plot-wise, this feels quite light, there are no real set pieces to base it around for the majority of the story. The other flaw in the story is that the conclusion really undermines the story to the extent that it probably knocks a few points off. By having the planet operate its very own reset button, it cheapens the impact of both Charley and C’rizz’s death, and in fact, all of the death that happens in this story. It goes against the tone that the story has worked so hard to establish over the preceding three parts of a bleak and unpleasant outlook, a world ruined by people’s meddling and waging war against each other.
The sound design on this story is a bit different, but is no less effective at conveying the tone. This story is set in a bleak and barren world that has been destroyed through war upon war, leading to nuclear apocalypse and the soundscape reflects that. The noise of the swirling wind is really effective, and the creaking of the dilapidated shelter that the Doctor, Charley and Cr’izz find works really well too. I listened to this story on headphones and initially had to pause to check it wasn’t a noise coming from my own house! When the water gets into the shelter, it is really effectively conveyed by muffling the dialogue, making the demise of the Nurse even more effective.
The standout amongst the guest cast is undisputedly Carolyn Jones as Excelsior, the narcissist and delusional leader of Bortresoye. More concerned with her looks and how she comes across to her non-existent public, and fuelled by the distortions of the truth she has been fed by her government ministers Voss and Tralfinial, Excelsior comes across as the worst type of politician initially. Her character defects only get worse when she starts stooping to murder. The way that she casually disposes of Tralfinial when he starts to tell her the truth about the impact the never-ending wars have had on the world may seem inconsequential initially, however, they set up the eventual murders of Charley and C’rizz in cold blood. If Excelsior is prepared to resort to cold-blooded murder to protect her worldview, there’s nothing she wouldn’t do. Carolyn Jones captures her delusion and madness really well and very convincingly – it would be very easy for this character to come across differently in another actor’s hands and really elevates every scene that she is in.
My only friends are dead, my TARDIS is missing. I’m trapped in a universe which bears no resemblance to my own. I’m not exactly glad to be alive at the moment. Death is becoming an attractive alternative.The Eighth Doctor
The Doctor is in a rather contemplative mood at the beginning of the story, especially as he is confronted with an illusion of Katarina and Adric, two companions who died in the course of travelling with him and two of his greatest failures. He is certainly haunted by this illusion later with the deaths of both Charley and C’rizz, something which he attempts to justify as saying that they chose to travel with him and that they know the risks. I think that Paul McGann does this well and manages to capture the appropriate feeling that makes it feel as though Katarina and Adric died whilst they were travelling with him, that is to say that he is the same man as Peter Davison and William Hartnell. It all helps with the internal continuity nicely. I really liked McGann’s performance in this story, as he attempts desperately to be a figure of optimism despite the danger of the situation the Doctor and his companions find themselves in at the beginning of the story. As the events of this story take their toll on him, he ends up confronted with Excelsior, who has killed both of his companions and is someone that he truly hates, which really comes across through McGann’s delivery and is utterly believable.
Of the Doctor’s companions in this story, Charley probably gets the rawest deal. She ends up paralysed early on when the shelter that they find on their arrival on the planet, and killed at the end of Part 3. I think India Fisher does a good job conveying her character’s frustration and realistic outlook of this condition, in the face of both of her friends’ overwhelming optimism. The scene in which she asks C’rizz if he would kill her, like he did with L’da, if she asked him to is really good and solidifies a deepening bond between these two companions. Equally, the scene where she is smothered by Excelsior highlights good work on behalf of both Fisher and Jones. Equally, Conrad Westmaas continues to come into his own as C’rizz, who benefits from time away from the Doctor, which allows him to learn the history of the planet and the perpetual history of conflict. C’rizz is definitely growing on me.
Verdict: Whilst I don’t think I’ll be listening to this one for any form of comfort, it is a good and interesting story, bolstered by the performance of Carolyn Jones and the main cast. It is let down slightly by its length and the ending. 8/10
Cast: Paul McGann (The Doctor), India Fisher (Charley Pollard), Conrad Westmass (C’rizz), Stephen Perring (The Kro’ka), Carolyn Jones (Excelsior), Ian Brooker (Minister Voss), Robert Hines (Minister Tralfinial), Richard Derrington (Landscar), Tom Eastwood (Requiem), Jane Hills (Nurse) & John Dorney (Make-Up Assistant).
Writer: Gary Hopkins
Director: Gary Russell
Composer: David Darlington
Monthly Range Release Number: 62
Behind the Scenes
- The working titles of this story were Would The Last Person To Leave The Planet Please Turn Off The Lights and Last.
- Carolyn Jones would go on to play Calcula in I, Davros.
- Ian Brooker has also appeared in Embrace the Darkness, The Time of the Daleks and Return of the Krotons.
- Richard Derrington also appeared in The Harvest and Storm of the Horofax.
- Jane Hills had previously appeared in The Creed of the Kromon, The Natural History of Fear and Faith Stealer.
- John Dorney is a writer, script editor and actor for Big Finish. His acting credits include The Light at the End, Faith Stealer, Robophobia and Terror of the Sontarans, which he co-wrote with Dan Starkey.
My Lady! You’ve just killed the Minister for Peace!Minister Voss
Previous Eighth Doctor review: Faith Stealer
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