Sunday, 20 September 2015

Dark Eyes 3

I like character development, that’s why I am such a fan of “new” Doctor Who. The characters are so much more real than in the classic series, when, with the best will in the world, many were just ciphers to forward the plot onwards, luckily this has been redeemed by Big Finish with the Companion Chronicles, actors have been given the chance to play the characters that could have been on screen had there been the will back in the classic era.
Of all the characters to be developed by Big Finish, the biggest journey we have seen (or heard) is for the Eighth Doctor. From just over an hour of TV time, Big Finish have taken our floppy haired frock coated fop, put him through the emotional wringer, stood back and waited to see what emerged the other side – and what emerged was the Eighth Doctor of Dark Eyes, stripped down, shorn of his foppish hair, a man on a mission with a hard edge and a determination brought about by the realisation that the horror and evil in the universe MUST be dealt with. Gone are the soft frothy adventures, Dark Eyes has brought us almost a new man, forged from death and loss.
In Night of the Doctor we saw an Eighth Doctor unwilling to take part in the time war, but trying to help on the periphery, Dark Eyes sees an Eighth Doctor who has, for want of a better description “learned to stop worrying and love the bomb”, he’s almost the warrior Doctor he couldn’t quite bring himself to be for the time war.
So, Dark Eyes 3. It’s the Doctor versus the Master set against the backdrop of the Eminence War – for those of you unfamiliar with the Eminence, essential listening is Dark Eyes 2, Destroy the Infinite and The Seeds of War. A potted history, the Eminence is an omnipotent sentient gas, if breathed in the breather takes “the breath of forever” and is transformed into an infinite warrior in the service of the Eminence, and these infinite armies are waging a long protracted war against Earth alliance.
As with the previous Dark Eyes releases this takes place over four stories in a box set.
The Master, as in Dark Eyes 2 is played with camp menacing relish by Alexander Macqueen, his plan is as convoluted as ever, involving using Molly O’Sullivan (she of the Dark Eyes) genetically engineered resistance to the Eminence to spread an anti Eminence vaccination which can be used to him to exert control over humanity. Confused? I was too.
This is a very very in depth story with many twists and turns bluffs and counter bluffs.
Part 1 The Death of Hope is the set up – The Master rides into a frontier town where the remaining residents are tricked into receiving the Eminence vaccinate from Molly, the Master’s actions convince The Doctor to get involved and in Part 2, The Reviled, the Doctor meets up with old friend Liv Chenka (Nicola Walker) in a refugee camp for displaced humans, this is a really grim chapter, in fact the whole story has a grim doom laden hopeless atmosphere, events in his story convince The Doctor to try to prevent the creation of The Eminence, leading to part 3 – Masterplan, my personal favourite of the set. There are lots of great character pieces including a two-hander between The Doctor and the Master whilst trapped in a crashing ship, and Part 4, Rule of the Eminence, brings the set to a close and is suitably epic, with the Master’s plan coming to fruition, his willing army of humans about to wage war on the cosmos, and with an ally in the Eminence, things seem hopeless.
The ending is suitably downbeat and melancholic, very much in keeping with the tone of the whole set, and with Dark Eyes 4 ending the series in March next year, all bets really are off as to what happens next.
It’s the sort of set I appreciated more than enjoyed, all involved act their socks off, but special plaudits to Alex Macqueen as the Master, a sneering little bully who delights in petty cruelty because he can, and Nicola Walker as Liv Chenka, world weary and wise – and of course Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor, a Time Lord with the weight of the universe on his shoulders. It’s startling how McGann’s incarnation has come on since his TV debut, he’s now a different man, but it’s been a completely organic character development, I can only assume that whatever befalls him in Dark Eyes 4 takes him off the dark path he is on and back to the path of pacifist, healer and saviour that we see in Night of the Doctor.
So appreciated rather than enjoyed, it’s just too grim in tone for me, but incredibly well written, hard hitting and truly epic in scale – and epic is something Who has been lacking of late.
Overall I give this an Emminently appreciated 8/10.