A sadly convoluted boxset spoiled by confusing scripts.
It has been nine months since we left the Eighth Doctor and his companions stuck in 20th-century Earth. The TARDIS has healed now to a point where limited travel through space and time is available. This is vital for the future of the Earth as the Doctor needs to find out the source of a power that wipes out the human race. When he does find it, it goes by the name “The Doctor”.
This third volume in the Stranded series is a major disappointment following the two largely successful previous instalments. This is mostly due to some whacky ideas about scripting that all but ruin one script and make for a confusing narrative in the others.
That being said, it is hard to fault the main cast including Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor (sounding more and more weary as the set drags on), the incredibly talented Nicola Walker (Liv Chenka), Hattie Morahan (Helen Sinclair), Rebecca Root (Tania Bell) and Tom Price (Sergeant Any Davidson). All these wonderful actors rise above the material they are given.
It seems to this reviewer that script editor Matt Fitton was trying to be far too clever for the story he is trying to tell and as a result the listener will be frustrated and confused by the end of it.
It begins with Patience by Tim Foley. The Judoon are chasing the Doctor and his companions in a paradoxical timeline where the members of the TARDIS crew are struggling to maintain their memories of what has happened (no doubt joining the ranks of the many listeners at this point). Foley’s script is hard to grasp for a lot of the time but manages to keep the audience engaged by the slenderest of threads. Nicholas Briggs brings his best Judoon voices to this one which is always a welcome thing.
Second story Twisted Folklore by Lizzie Hopley sees the crew split up on the planet Rarkelia investigating the mysterious Divine Intervention and their role in shaping an alternate universe under the guise of “The Doctor”. This is a confusing tale that jumps between scenes rapidly, leaving the listener even more aggravated than they were before! The supporting cast of this story are very much up to the task. Particular performance highlights include Robert Whitelock (Kallure), and Aurora Burghart (Marifen).
Third story, Snow by James Kettle is by far the pick of the bunch. The crew return to Baker Street in the near future and have to deal with a weirdly local snowstorm amongst some other tensions between the various companions. This is a welcome respite from the weirdness of the previous episodes and is actually one of the more beautiful episodes in the whole series to date. It brings back David Shaw-parker as Ron Winters from the previous sets and he tugs at the emotional heartstrings as well as anyone. This is a fantastic story that balances action scenes and slower character pieces superbly.
We come crashing back to the earth with the ominously titled What Just Happened? by John Dorney. The entire story (including beginning and end credits) are played in reverse for some unknown reason. In the bonus interviews the usually brilliant Dorney talks about wanting to do something different, and to that end he certainly achieves this. However, this is a complete mess of a narrative for a story that does not need it. In the end, although there is a cliff-hanger of sorts (even though it happens at the start of the episode) there may be no real impetus to see how the story ends.
Director Ken Bentley works wonders to keep momentum going and his usual brilliant self in the director’s chair and it is always a pleasure to hear the outstanding sound and music design by Benji Clifford and Jamie Robertson. The bonus interviews provide some insight into the reasons behind certain decisions being made for this set which will be of interest to many.
It is sad that this volume cannot match the quirkiness of the previous two sets, however, when the final instalment arrives in April 2022, it may serve to force a re-evaluation of this set.
Reviewed by Rodney Hrvatin
Distributed by: Big Finish Productions
Released: December 2021
Approx RRP: $47 CD, $20 Digital Download
This review is the opinion of the reviewer and not Glam Adelaide.