Sunday, 20 September 2015

196 - Equilibrium

I like Prog Rock, (amongst other things), and when I heard of this month’s title, I couldn’t help but think of Rush and their classic album “Hemispheres”.
The entire side one of this album is a track called Cygnus X1 Book 2 – Hemispheres, and it is about the battle of the heart and mind for dominance in the shape of the battle of the Gods Dionysys and Apollo.  Balance is brought in the end by Cygnus and the final lyric is “Sensibility armed with sense and liberty with the heart and mind united in a single perfect Sphere” – balance, perfection, Equilibrium, the fusion of heart and mind for the good of all, moderation in all things. This is the type of story that I expected from Equilibrium; the cover gave it a fairytale feeling, the back cover blurb was reminiscent of Game of Thrones.  It had Annette Badland playing the Queen – surely she had to be the villain……?
Expectations are a funny thing; I thought I had Equilibrium worked out from the cover and the synopsis – how wrong I was, and how glad I was that I was wrong, because Equilibrium really is a bit of a gem.  It’s a genuinely sad, melancholy tale of a society in almost permanent stasis, complete Equilibrium, and the awful ends that the denizens of the realm of Isenfel go to, quite willingly, to maintain this. If this were a musical, it would have the feel of Kate Bush’s ‘The Sensual World’, heartbreakingly sad, sweet and melancholy, wistful and wintry.
The story is the second part of a new trilogy set in E-Space for the Fifth Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan and Turlough, and follows directly on from last month’s release Mistfall. Our heroes are on the trail of the Interface Stabiliser which allows them to leave E-Space when they are drawn to Isenfell, a world of Ice, not unlike Winterfell in Game of Thrones (minus the gratuitous nudity and violence!) The TARDIS sinks beneath the ice and the team seek assistance from Queen Karlina – Annette Badland playing beautifully against type as a world weary Queen, fulfilling her duty and bound to her fate, and what an awful task it is being a leader in Isenfell.  This is where the tragedy of the realm comes in – the world needs to be held in balance, no more than 1952 people must inhabit it, this is the number that can be sustained, enforced by The Balancer.  Now there are four new visitors, four residents of Isenfell must die to make way for them; this is the way it has always been, parents dying to allow their children into the world, brothers sacrificing themselves for sisters – but the most disturbing thing is the peoples acceptance of this.  This is how things are have always been and how they always will be.  It’s a fatalistic world view, and genuinely tragic.
With such a large main cast, sometimes not all are given a chance to shine.  This story has Turlough as the companion in the spotlight as he forms a bond with Inger, played by Joanna Kirlkland, a cold, haughty, no nonsense warrior Princess who loves hunting – their relationship is awkward but very natural. Also Sarah Sutton is given a great chance to shine in episode four, where she gives one of “those” New Who style speeches about the Doctor being wonderful and his impact on everyone he touches.
The ending is doubly sad because the resolution was always in the grasp of the residents of Isenfell, it just needed the Doctor to make them realise it. It is refreshing to have a story with no actual “villain” in the traditional sense and to have such a deep characterful story in the more technical Fifth Doctor run. It’s melancholy, moving and magical – I give it an Ice Meltingly fab 10/10.