Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Project Twilight by Cavan Scott & Mark Wright and directed by Gary Russell


What’s it about? In the renovated docklands of South East London, on the bank of the river Thames, the doors of the Dusk are open for business. Bets are called, cards are dealt and roulette wheels spun. As fortunes are won and lost, an inhuman killer stalks the local avenues and alleyways a killer with a taste for human flesh. Is there more to casino owner Reggie "The Gent" Mead or is he just a common gangster? What secrets are hidden in the bowels of the Dusk? And what connection does the apparently sleazy Bermondsey casino have to a long- buried government initiative known as Project: Twilight? The Doctor must form uneasy alliances where the line between friend and enemy is blurred, playing games of chance... But are the stakes too high?

Softer Six: Can Colin Baker do no wrong on audio? There is some striking characterisation of the Doctor in this story and what really surprises is how gentle he comes across in such violent circumstances. The last time we saw the sixth Doctor in a story this disturbing (Vengeance on Varos) he seemed perfectly suited to that environment, in places he was as violent and aggressive as the society he was fighting. But faced with murder, abuse and slavery here the Doctor is genuinely appalled by what he is seeing. Maybe it has something to do with the wonders Evelyn has done for him but he seems more protective of his companion than ever.

He has sat at the table of the great Kublai Khan and tasted the mouth watering pastries of the master bakers of Barastabon but nothing beats the Peking crispy duck from the Slow Boat in Saaarf East London. Nice to see the cuddly sixth Doctor enjoying his food! He sings the Zagreus nursery rhyme (anybody would think they were trying to prepare us for something!). He is a proficient medical Doctor and does shy away from the sight of blood. Mysterious deaths are exactly his sort of business. It is commented on that nobody that colourful goes through life unnoticed and Reggie manages to dig up that he used to be a UN lackey doing some work for military intelligence during the 70’s & 80’s (hah!). He is suspicious even when Amelia tells him the truth and he promises to help if there are no more deaths. He always likes to take someone at their word but warns that if they trick him they will regret it. Funny although the seventh Doctor would probably go to greater lengths if you hurt him it is still the sixth Doctor I would not like to cross! He thinks Reggie could have better role models than thugs and hoodlums. In one of his (very few) lighter moments he cheekily makes the observation that that private do not enter is ancient high Gallifreyan for come on in, Doctor. He feels stupid for not realising that he is dealing with vampires but really there aren’t that many clues at that point. Evelyn asks if all Time Lords are as arrogant as him but considering she has already been to Gallifrey she can answer that herself! He is deeply prejudiced about Vampires – they hunted down the Time Lords wherever they fled. He still feels the duty of a Time Lord to track them down and destroy them. He is genuinely hurt by Amelia’s betrayal but humbled by her severe reaction to his mocking. You have never heard him sound more appalled than when he sees the mess Reggie has made of Cassie’s face (‘What have you been doing you monster, how dare you!’). The Doctor takes a swing at Amelia when he realises just how far she has gone. He admits he made a fatal error of judgement and put Evelyn’s life in serious danger and asks for her forgiveness.

Learned Lecturer: Evelyn is really coming into her own here and proving her mettle although her sense of adventure is a bit on the shy side during this story. Eddie’s combustion leaves her genuinely shocked and queasy. The Doctor has made her an expert at snooping and poking around. There is a fabulous sequence where she uses her handbag to bludgeon Nathaniel when he is attacking the Doctor and even he admits he will never ask her to leave it behind again. The dynamic between her and the Doctor is stepped up a notch and they are even finishing each others sentences (‘Evelyn…’ ‘Be careful?’ ‘You’re learning.’). Her mothering skills are perfect at getting information out of people. Evelyn’s trouble is that she gets too involved with the people she meets, they aren’t just characters in a story playing out but living breathing people – her real strength (and weakness) is that she really cares. Her husband was something of a war story expert and loved code breaking and Evelyn has picked up some of his interest. She quietly mocks that Time Lords think that Gallifrey is the centre of the universe (it is). You have never seen Evelyn so muted when she witnesses Cassie’s abuse. I love how defiant she is in the face of Amelia and Reggie’s threats (they call her old and past her best to which she reacts she is as tough as old boots!). She faces up to death with bravery (‘Just get on with it!’). Fishing the Doctor out of the Thames has become something of a habit for her. Evelyn’s tears at the climax prove she is just as soppy as you would imagine…her fears for Cassie will come back and haunt her someday.

Great Ideas: The opening scenes see the Doctor and Evelyn discovering an alleyway full of disembodied cats and dogs. I love the opening set at the Forget – it signs to this being a nasty story. State of the art medical equipment and torture devices in a casino? The Forge was those in trouble with the law and experimenting on them. There are nanobots in Eddie’s immune system reprogramming it. Playing this little piggy with broken fingers is just horrible. Nimrod is a marvellously sinister creation who lurks in the shadows stalking vampires and murdering them. The scientists from the Forge were using DNA samples from vampires to test on people and create an ultimate weapon for King and Country. The scenes of Reggie beating Cassie are so deeply disturbing I could understand if people were put off at that point. Amelia wants to perfect the Twilight virus and introduce it to the population and create a new race of the Undead. Science is the modern method of vampirism – not on the seduction of a bite but injected into you by a hypodermic needle. The blood farm is another gross idea somewhat blunted by a similar scene in Bloodtide – human beings having their lives sucked dry. Nimrod is Dr William Abberton responsible for the vampires existence and attempting to correct his mistakes. He is part man, part machine, part vampire. Cassie abandoned her son…who turns out to be a very important character later in Big Finish’s run. The dawn over a bustling city – after all the fireworks it all comes down to a quiet scene between the Doctor and Amelia and the vial of the virus. Cassie is left in Norway at the story’s closure and Nimrod is going looking for her…

Standout Performance: To be fair this is an extremely impressive cast so singling out one person is difficult but Holly de Jong’s Amelia takes the award. She has that gloriously silky way of switching between innocent victim and vicious murderer, plying the character full of charm and anger. Rosie Cavaliero pumps up the drama with her terrifying transformation into a vampire and Rob Dixon gives Reggie a sadistic edge that makes him one of the nastiest thugs the Doctor has ever encountered.

Great Lines: ‘I’ll pop out and grab something later…’
‘Warm, just the way you like it.’
‘In my considerable experience homicidal maniacs don’t tend to knock.’
‘I’m just going to finish my drink. I don’t want it to start clotting…’
‘I’m here because a failing Empire started playing with powers they didn’t understand and got it wrong!’
‘What have I done?’ (says the sixth Doctor).
‘You’re inhuman!’ ‘Shut up! You don’t know the meaning of the word…’
‘Who am I going to shoot first, my saviour or my creator?’
‘The living dead feeding of the Undead.’
‘The next sunrise over this city will be dripping with blood.’
‘How do you think the Thames will look when it runs red with death?’ (I love these melodramatic villainous lines!)

Audio Landscape: Fire crackling, lightning rumbling and wind howling opens the story. There are lots of little touches that make this a very modern sounding story; police sirens, convincing street scenes, the gambling crowd in the Dusk, cats crying in alleys, Eddie’s horrific exploding death (!), pouring and drinking, phones ringing, creatures growling, traffic shooting past Cassie’s front door, her doorbell ringing, Reggie and Amelia’s telepathic talks (pounding heartbeats and their voices echoing like they are literally trapped in each others minds), Matthew’s fingers snapping (ugh!), the car going into the river, Nathaniel’s bloody death scene, gunshots, Reggie’s stress out smashing bottles with a baseball bat, Cassie’s shrill screams as she is transformed, her delirious and hypnotic mind rape by Amelia, the pained cries of the humans in the blood farm, Reggie’s vomit inducing watery death at Cassie’s hands, the lapping waters of the Thames, the explosion of the Dusk and some very dodgy ring tones. This a remarkably assured production.

Musical Cues: A flashy and modern score, perfectly underscoring the tension and horror of the story. There is an appropriate heartbeat motif and some memorable whipping sounds leading from scene to scene. Some dramatic choral stings. The music is menacing, pounding, building up a fantastic atmosphere. The music when Reggie beats Cassie makes a tense situation even more frightening – with some really dark piano stabs.


Standout Moment: Not a moment exactly but I love it when everything is suddenly out in the open, the Doctor realises the real danger they are in, Evelyn is captured and Cassie is undergoing her transformation. It’s heightened tension all the way and I was gagging for more!

Result: A shockingly nasty story that manages to feel both ultra modern and quite traditional. I was gripped throughout and very impressed by the small but electrifying cast. Holly de Jong and Rob Dixon made a brilliant pair of villains, whilst the story toys with the idea that they might be misunderstood victims the final episode reveals their real teeth and the ever wonderful pairing of Maggie Stables and Colin Baker provides moments of warmth and drama. Gary Russell holds the story together very well and the powerful music only serves heighten the tension. Scott and Wright are clearly a pair worth looking out for as they inject some real horror and science into the story that raises it above your archetypal vampire tale. Nimrod proves to be a fascinating and there are some intriguing strands to follow up on. A memorable story that drags the sixth Doctor kicking and screaming into the new millennium: 8/10


Artwork by Simon Hodges @ http://hisi79.deviantart.com/

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