Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Caerdroia written by Lloyd Rose and directed by Gary Russell

What’s it about: Self-exiled to a new universe, separated from his TARDIS, opposed and manipulated by the Divergence and their agent the Kro'ka, the Doctor has been struggling to work out the nature of the cosmic game in which he's an unwilling pawn. Now, at last, he has a chance to find the answer ¤ and regain the TARDIS! Threatened and desperate, the Kro'ka abandons his behind-the-scenes machinations to confront the Doctor directly. But will both of them lose their way in the maze of the strange world in which they find themselves? A world in which a clock may have a cuckoo but no hands, a labyrinth imprisoning a paradox, and a Garden of Curiosities reveals something the Doctor has never seen before. As the Doctor faces these challenges, Charley and C'rizz provide valuable help. But with the TARDIS itself at stake, the Doctor reaches deep inside himself to find some surprising new allies...

Breathless Romantic (x3): Listen up folks because I’ve got something to say. Lloyd Rose is the best writer for the eighth Doctor whatever medium she is writing for him in, bar none. Her two EDAs, City of the Dead and Camera Obscura feature some of the most magnificent and striking characterisation of the eighth Doctor and they almost shocked the other writers at the time until raising their game to keep up. Caerdroia isn’t quite as good as those two novels (as an audio it doesn’t quite have the same thematic depth as a book) but it is easily the best writing Paul McGann has been given yet and she gets the audio eighth Doctor spot on, allowing him to be angry, romantic, threatening, intelligent, gentle and prickly – his dialogue throughout is great fun and full of menace and laughs. As such Paul McGann gives his best performance yet, a real slap in the face after some of his more tired recent efforts and he really seems to enjoy the chance to be a bit more dramatic and silly, thoughtful and hilarious and its all wonderfully addictive. If this were the eighth Doctor(s) we had week in, week out I certainly would not be complaining. Splitting his character into three distinct personalities allows the writer to really have fun exploring the different aspects of his psyche and remind us just how many layers this particular incarnation has. I was rather sad when they all jumped back into one body.

As long as the Doctor sleeps they can’t be moved through the Interzones. He’s stronger than when he arrived on this world and is full of secrets about this universe now. He’s so cheeky to the Kro’ka (‘You will beg for mercy, Doctor!’ ‘Promises, promises!’) and seems to have a great deal of fun turning the tables at last and winding him up. His mind is such a big place and so old. He’s never cruel. He finds his consciousness can take over when his companions are in danger and turn vicious. Torture for the Doctor is to be trapped within a universe that doesn’t acknowledge time. He can’t remember any recent examples of his theories being wrong. When the Doctor is split into three we have Brains, Brain Damage and Manners! I love the childish and carefree Doctor, it’s the cuddlier side of his that we haven’t seen for a long time. The angry, bitter Doctor is something pretty scary, unhindered by the others. It is so rare for the Doctor to see something new (even in a brand new universe?). He loves purple marlots and sunflowers. Thank goodness the cheerful Doctor is mixed in with the others otherwise he would be unbearable (by his own admission). He has a ball of string in his tiny pockets the size of a beach ball! I loved listening to the three Doctor’s working out the mystery of Caerdroia together bringing their own distinct opinions to the problem in a quick succession. The dreamy, abstract Doctor is a healthy reminder that some of the Doctor’s goofiest incarnations have been his slyest. Spontaneity is his strong point. He may talk like a fool but he knows what he is talking foolishly about. Of all the dangers he has faced, the Doctor never expected to have died of borderm (I loved that observation). He has courage and integrity and fights evil fiercely and yet is capable of great mercy, he is truly heroic. The nasty Doctor needs the compassionate and childish ones to keep an eye on him, to stop him from going too far. He invades the Kro’ka’s mind (which he thinks is a dump) and bullied him, really gets off on hurting him. ‘I’m home!’ he screams when he gets the TARDIS back and it is such a relief to see him so happy again. C’rizz wonders if he is still the Tiggerish Doctor but Charley points out this is all of him, he has just never seen the Doctor happy before.

Edwardian Adventuress: Such a difference between this and how India Fisher played Charley in The Last – I can never tell from one story to the next if her characterisation and performance will work or not but this is the best we have seen from Charley since Neverland. Once again she is very cute and great fun to be around. Can’t Lloyd Rose write every story? She really seems to get off on poking fun at the Kro’ka. Charley cannot bear to watch the Doctor suffer. She gets lumbered with the impatient, spiteful Doctor and she finds it hard to believe that he is part of her Doctor (just as he finds it hard to believe that he usually puts up with somebody as stupid as her!). They fight like a married couple and yet obviously care for each other; it’s a really fun dynamic and exactly the sort of thing that was desperately missing last season. She declares that she has never let the Doctor down and he knows it but seems to have forgotten her selfish act of jumping into the Divergent Universe after him because she thought she was dumped. Fisher really sells the dangerous moments in the story, a far cry from her indifference in The Last,
go listen to her panic and hysteria when she is almost crushed inside the workings of the cuckoo clock. She tries to annoy the Doctor because it makes for a bit of life. She was wondering when the monster would show up. C’rizz asks if she and the Doctor are in love. Charley is hilarious when she (‘woo!’) tries to get noticed (‘I’m from another universe!’). She admits she is more adventurous than C’rizz and sounds very excited about showing him around the TARDIS.

Chameleonic Rogue: He also seems to have great fun with Charley at the Kro’ka’s expense! The cows really like him much to his chargin. He really misses his home but somebody has to look out for the Doctor and Charley. Love is always dangerous he tells Charley, just look at him and L’da. He is surprised that more people aren’t staring at him. In Caerdroia C’rizz is likable, funny and intelligent – can’t Lloyd Rose write all the stories? He doesn’t like heights and charley thinks he would look great with a marble effect skin. His ears are extremely sensitive.

Standout Performance: This is a showcase for the regulars, almost as if Gary Russell has heard all the criticism about the three main performers and wanted to give them a chance to charm the audience. To his credit, it is a total success. And I really didn’t think that would be possible.

Twists: The Doctor scoffs at the Mind Blast Device and yet it really appears to cause him some pain which it turns out he was faking all along! The Interzone has numerous portals and is a clearing station to the many Divergent Worlds (hang on…I thought the zones were all on one planet – Bortroysoe?). Their Divergent Head Office is called Caerdroia, a castle that is everywhere. Time spillage is coming from the portal that the Divergents are hiding behind. More Welsh people turn up inside this universe. There is a huge clock, which is an illusion to linear time. The Department of Communications Enabling Devices can issue pencils, the Department of Necessities for Daily Routine can loan you someone else’s pencil and the Department of Rhetorical and Genuine Questions will answer any queries you might have! This is bureaucracy epitomised! They are being run like rats through a maze and all the doors led back to the same place. Does the Kro’ka serve the Divergents willingly? Is he cut off from his past, longing for his home? They are taking images from their minds and constructing them but the details are slightly askew, the cuckoo clock with no hands. The maze, administration building and castle are everywhere – the fortress of turning paths. The Divergents want the Doctor’s memories removed, stored and examined for the secrets of the TARDIS. The TARDIS is the prize at the centre of the labyrinth and she is trying to tell the Doctor how to get there. Rassilon is angry that the Kro’ka has broken their contract. The Doctor, Charley and C’rizz cannot travel in time but they can travel in space and there is a whole new universe to explore!

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘I thought we were taller!’
‘I’d very much like to know what’s going to eat us!’
‘Lets skip the melodrama and get to the point.’
‘Stop being fiendish and get on with it.’
‘We had a contract. You broke it. I’m afraid I am going to have to break you.’

Audio Landscape: There is an onslaught of church bells shredding through the Doctor’s mind, the Doctor manages to appear in different parts of his mind, the fizzing Interzone energies, the taunting Kro’ka, birdsong and cows mooing with bells tinkling, snapping wood, cuckoo, a babbling brook, the growling Oberlad, the clicking, grinding gears and cogs inside the clock, the deafening chiming, wind running through the labyrinth, market town with people chatting and horses screaming, the awesome ‘contact’ sound and of course the delicious TARDIS console hum which is a real sound for sore ears!

Musical Cues: Bloody marvellous, the music is spunky, modern, really fun and adds a lot of depth to the already thoughtful dialogue. Fantastically eclectic and atmospheric.

Isn’t it Odd: What an awful, cheap and nasty looking cover. I wish I had the maze alternative, which was much nicer. The rules in the Divergent Universe seem to be changing with each story.

Standout Moment: Any scene with the Kro’ka. Its lovely to see Stephen Perring getting a larger role and he really seems to enjoy playing the Kro’ka on the run for a change, scared and anxious.
He is by far the best thing to have come out of this arc and its nice to see his silky menace swapped for quiet desperation.

Result: Okay I’ve said it three times already but…can’t Lloyd Rose writer every story? Or at least characterise them? It is shocking to think that a story in which McGann, Fisher and Westmaas carry 90% of the material set inside the Divergent Universe could be this amusing. Where Caerdroia lacks a plot it grabs your attention with plenty of thoughtful dialogue, fun characterisation, wonderfully surreal moments and a general sense of things pushing on in the right direction. The triplet Doctors with their distinct personalities are inspired and provide the story with its best laughs and most considerate moments. The production itself feels fresh, bouncy and despite an inordinate amount of running around in circles never seems to stand still or stagnate. The return of the TARDIS is by far the most exciting moment yet in this arc, if depriving the Doctor of his ship turned him into something wicked and flat then returning his one true love sees his character finally come back to life. All in all a very promising shove towards this arcs conclusion and a fascinating story in its own right: 8/10

Artwork by Simon Hodges @

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