Sunday, 20 September 2015

193 - Masters Of Earth

Post Apocalyptic dramas seem to be all the rage at the moment, from The Walking Dead to The Hunger Games to World War Z, to The Last of Us to Big Finish’s own superb reboot of Survivors. What is it that fascinates us about looking into a cracked mirror version of our own world where society has broken down? Of disparate bands of rag-tag survivors eking out a living against terrible odds? Putting ourselves into this situation what would we do to survive if we had to? Are we the good people we like to think we are if the rules of society no longer apply?
Back in 1964 Doctor Who touched on this area with The Dalek Invasion of Earth, we came in to the story at the end, Episode One aptly titled “World’s End” set in 2164, the Daleks had already conquered the Rarth and occupied the planet for 10 years. It was a bleak world of rebels, quislings, black marketeers and Daleks. The Doctor of course saves the day and sets the Earth back on to a course of freedom and hope.
This month’s main range release from Big Finish is set during The Dalek Invasion of Earth, in 2163, one year before the Daleks are defeated.
The Sixth Doctor and Peri arrive in the highlands of Scotland, and are soon split up as Peri is selected for forced labour in a Dalek oil refinery. What follows is three episodes of capture, escape, peril, and twists and turns as the Doctor, Peri and new friends Ross, Alan and Moira Brody, try to get to Orkney and a mythical resistance group. There are problems though, first The Doctor cannot risk interfering with events as this may undo the fragile web of time, and Moira Brody is a figure in history that the Doctor knows of as an inspirational resistance leader, so she needs to survive.
The first three episodes have it all, like a desperate road movie being thwarted by roadblocks, Dalek Patrols, Robomen, Varga plants, and a marine version of the Slyther. The peril and horror content mixed with the desperation of the protagonists is made even more dire when Peri is scratched and infected by a Varga plant. It’s gripping stuff, it really is, until episode four happens.
I was completely caught up in the race against time and desperate escape from the Daleks that when Episode Four happens and a characters motivations are revealed (spoilers I will say no more), I felt a bit let down by the resolution.  It just seemed do at odds with the first three episodes that it could have been from a different story, which is a shame as the first three episodes are so good. There is an interesting glimpse into how far the Doctor will go to protect the Web of Time, made more chilling by Colin Baker’s matter of fact delivery.
Can I just mention Colin for a moment, Ol’ Sixie is just superb here. Colin is incapable of playing the Doctor badly and still after all these years he is finding more layers to the Sixth Doctor’s personality – bluster tinged with pathos sums him up here, but also does him no justice at all. Great to see the old team of Peri and Six back together again they have such a history and are a great combination.
What could have been a classic, for me falls at the last hurdle, but the set up episodes are just superb, so I award this a not quite masterful, but still extremely passable 7/10.