Friday 30 October 2015

The Way Of The Empty Hand

If there is one thing that the Doctor stands for (and there are many) it is finding another way, looking for the peaceful diplomatic solution rather than the military solution, avoiding violence at all costs unless there really is no other way. The Second Doctor, presenting a shambolic unimposing figure is possible the least likely incarnation to find himself in a gladiatorial arena, but in The Way of The Empty Hand, that’s just what happens – to find out how dear reader then please read on…
Short Trips are just that, short interludes of up to half an hour long, a traditional “talking book” in which the story is narrated by an actor, in this case Frazer Hines, who narrates and plays all the parts, and is an astoundingTroughton.
Landing on an unnamed planet Jamie rushes off and promptly disappears; he has been kidnapped by the Overlord of Combatia and is being forced to fight in the Overlord’s seemingly endless quest to find the Ultimate Warrior (not the former WWF Wrestler though). As Zoe and the Doctor track him down, Jamie himself forms an alliance with fellow human kidnapee Gichin Funakoshi, a warrior from Japan, and together they go all Spartacus and organise a slaves revolt.
 This is very much your traditional “Doctor defeats an evil villain in a few hours” sort of story – and as in my favourite story of the 1980’s, The Happiness Patrol, the Doctor defeats this great evil through the power of words and concepts not violence – in fact it is his complete refusal to take up arms that is his salvation. Again, Frazer Hines is wonderful as Troughton – he captures his essence, his vocal tones, inflections and mannerisms perfectly.
The story crams a lot in to its 27 minutes running time, however the villain Overlord is really no more than a generic villain to be defeated and lacks a little depth, and in a clever piece of retrospective foreshadowing the ending echoes the War Games (which is yet to happen for the characters but has happened for the writers and listeners, if you see what I mean).
Conceptually it is a very interesting story, though it treads no new ground, in fact all of the plot elements seem familiar, gladiators, a floating space station, bringing down a dictator – but it is so fast paced and so well performed that this familiarity can be forgiven. Overall, not quite an Ultimate Warrior but a worthy opponent.

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