Sunday, 20 September 2015

182 - Antidote to Oblivion

He’s back, and it’s about time!
True in 1996 and true in 2014, but true for different characters, for 2014 sees the return of everyone’s favourite snivelling, sadistic capitalist, Sil.
Doctor Who does satire very very well, and this is up there with The Sunmakers. Sil is representing the “Universal Monetary Fund” offering exorbitant bailout loans to a struggling ConCorp (a future UK run by a board of directors, no less), does this sound familiar? Just look at Greece, Spain and Portugal and the way their bailout loans were handled and the parallels are clearly there.
Into this come the Sixth Doctor and his companion Flip, lured from a holiday by a distress call from another TARDIS. For the uninitiated, Flip is short for Phillipa Jackson, she has been travelling with the Doctor since “The Curse of Davros”, played brilliantly by Lisa Greenwood, a great addition to the pantheon of companions. Flip is brave, compassionate, impatient, inquisitive, in fact everything the Doctor looks for in a companion and is a great foil to Colin Baker, a companion in the mould of Rose Tyler and Lucie Miller.
24th Century UK (or ConCorp) is a depressing place, democracy died there 150 years ago and now everyone wears a happy face as the populace is kept docile by drugs, which ConCorp exports to the rest of the world. It really is a cracked mirror held up to the UK today, a docile populace letting corporations get away with eroding their rights in exchange for a quiet life.
But why has The Doctor been lured here, and why does Sil need a Time Lord?
It is a fact that Doctor Who does dystopian futures very very well, and the future in Antidote to Oblivion is no exception, it truly is an Orwellian world gone mad. Think The Sunmakers, The Happiness Patrol, Bad Wolf and you won’t go far wrong. Con Corp is a society devoid of humanity where Capitalism has been taken to its unfettered unregulated immoral end and is a cautionary tale.
There are surprises, revelations and some excellent character pieces. Nabil Shaban is as flesh crawlingly revolting as Sil as he ever was and is heartless cold capitalism personified, inciting mass murder of the population by cholera to reduce “welfare payments”. Colin Baker is incapable of playing the Doctor badly, and as I have said before, if he had been allowed to play the role this way on TV,  perhaps Tom would now be perceived as the “other Baker” and Lisa Greenwood’s Flip is fast becoming one of my favourite companions, up there with Romana II, Donna Noble and Lucie Miller.
So, excellent world building, fantastic characterisation, but what about plot? In a word “gripping”, two hours flew by, I was repulsed, incensed and exhilarated, but boy is it bleak, with episode three being some of the darkest and most disturbing material ever featured in Doctor Who in any format.
Sil would fit in very well with 21st century Who, his villainy is relatable to the worst excesses if 21st century society. I hope he returns to Big Finish soon.
Final Score 9/10