Sunday, 23 January 2011

Dreamtime written by Simon A. Forward and directed by Gary Russell

What’s it about: You’re asking me?

Master Manipulator: Unmemorable to be honest, the Doctor spends most of the story floating about in the Dreamtime talking a load of spiritualist nonsense. His relationship with Baiame lacks interest because they never once share a single line of natural dialogue with each other. The Doctor enjoys all the mysteries of the first episode (I’m glad somebody was enjoying it) and comes to the astonishing conclusion of a ‘sense of something ancient’ when confronted with a fossilised city. He admits if he is to save one, he must save everyone. He’s unlikely to be the Sandman! He commands time.

Oh Wicked: Was Ace in this story? Oh yeah she’s hanging out with the Galyari. Forgive me for being naïve but what is the point of including a character if you aren’t going to explore her? All we learn about her is that people are still tentatively calling her McShane. Woohoo.

Sexy Scouse: In what will become a regular occurrence in the 7th Doctor audios, Philip Olivier outclasses the other two in every way. Because Hex is such an identifiable character he is our eyes and ears in these adventures, even stories as diabolical as Dreamtime. Hex expected space to be a bit more…Star Trek. The characterisation is all over the place though with Hex initially taking everything in his stride considering he is standing on an alien rock floating through space and yet as soon as he sees aliens and a spaceship he’s all ‘oh my God!’ He never thought he would be so happy to see giant lizards with guns. Less gunboat, more diplomacy. Once his dad took him shooting, a rare attempt at father/son bonding and Hex hated every minute of it. The depth of characterisation here is Hex describing himself as the one who goes ‘oh my God’ a lot. He’s got a bad sense of humour, that’s what a medical career will do for you, teach you to laugh in the face of adversity. He hopes he gets to be a veteran at this…lets just hope he gets more interesting stuff to do.

Great Ideas (lets not go that far): Out in the depths of space, a protective bubble surrounding a town on an asteroid. A ghost town with stony ghosts. Who would carve cars out of stone? Every soul that is drawn into the Dreamtime lends the Dreaming strength. Baiame the guru extended the boundaries of the island in the stars. He founded the colony and brought it to the stars and he exists in the Dreamtime. Uluru became a multi cultural society, one that was raised on western ideas, that was its destiny. We paved paradise and put up a parking lot! The power of an entire peoples dreams, the minds of the entire race over the universe of matter all channelled through Baiame. He is the force field. Or something.

Audio Landscape: A didgeridoo plays persistently throughout, breaking up the shantytown, Galyari voices, bleeping scanners, screeching brakes, blaster fire, growling Bunyips, the screaming voices of the Dreamtime, tapping wood, tear gas, riots, wading through water, struggling underwater, the kookaburra.

Musical Cues: There are some nice cultural pieces of music, what a shame the story couldn’t live up to the score. It’s all very Farscape.

Isn’t it Odd: The opening sense have no description in them and so frustratingly all we hear is a right old racket but have no narration or imagery to back them up. By the end of the first episode my interest was seriously waning, it had little atmospherics, no interesting dialogue, said nothing about its characters…little did I know how much worse it was going to get. ‘Your Doctor is lost to us! He sleeps in stone!’ – that’s the end of episode one, how are we supposed to relate to a cliffhanger that we don’t even understand? The Galyari characters have no reason to be there aside from the fact that it is this author writing the script, they learn nothing from the events and exhibit no personality. Episode two is more talk and no action, I don’t mind talk (after all that’s what audios are about) but nobody seems to do anything
but pontificate! Perhaps the mystical dialogue contains lots of hidden meanings that a rough townie like me can’t understand! ‘You have crossed the Dreamtime! I can see it in your eyes!’ – bollocks symbolism. ‘The land dreams what it will and wills what it dreams…’ – stop talking in riddles and tell me what the feck is going on! What is going on at the end of episode two? It’s all chaos and tearing and no bloody explanation? Am I supposed to make it all up as I go along? You shouldn’t be both bored and confused by the end of the second episode! The standard of dialogue is ‘my friends are stranded on the far side of an altogether different abyss.’ ‘Feel the sound, feel it travel your body, the vibrations pass through your fingertips…’ Do any of the characters have dreams, desires, pasts or personalities because all seem to be shockingly vacant? Everyone seems to be there to spout for emblematic gobbledegook. ‘Where time sleeps! Time breathes in and out?’ – what are they talking about? ‘Reach out with your karma feelings!’ – I nearly turned it off at that point but I did have a friend I was texting at the time giving me the encouragement to go on. Are the Bunyips (and Hex is right that is an awful name) there just because this is Doctor Who and we expect monsters? ‘The end begins!’ – if only I was thinking at the time…this was only halfway through episode three. Mythological terraforming, I can accept some pretty kooky ideas but that’s embarrassing! When they started talking about a bond between man, the land and the spirits I thought I had wondered into a Chris Carter season opener of The X Files! All the voices we have been hearing are the sound of life dragged back to the primordial soup – did anyone manage to follow this script? When McCoy started dribbling ‘jaraperi! Garaloo! Unduwat! Kurakaban!’ I thought I had succumbed to some kind of madness. I thought it was the return of Kalid! ‘Your place is in the Dreamtime’ – what is going on!!!??? Should I have been cheering when the fake Doctor drowned Ace? ‘What’s that? ‘Angry waters!’ – why doesn’t anybody talk naturally? John Scholes completely fails to convince as Baiame, he stresses his already florid dialogue and the character seems like a parody of every shaman and wise man you’ve ever seen on the telly. A story shouldn’t be so badly written that you need the Doctor to summarise the last three episodes in the final instalment. So…we have stopped believing in the old ways of Dreaming so the Dream decided to do something about it and start again – that’s what this has all been building to? ‘Your angry heart knows peace…fly to him Kookaburra!’ – the Doctor does something (apparently) clever at the conclusion but I don’t have a clue what it was. ‘I was always a fan of Rolling Stones. They gather no moss’ – this is painful stuff.

Result: Perhaps somebody could explain this story to me because I’ve just finished listening to it and I don’t have a clue. I honestly don’t mind a touch of mysticism but it needs to be tethered to an engaging narrative of which Dreamtime has neither. Either this is an experiment gone horribly wrong or I am completely the wrong audience for this sort of mystical mumbo jumbo but I found this story never generated an ounce of tension or interest, it was far too busy up there on its philosophical cloud to entertain me. Easily the least digestible thing that Simon Forward has written (and he had a pop at Russian literature in the EDAs) and one of Gary Russell’s most ineffectually directed stories, with nary a memorable performance or set piece. Dreamtime is aptly named, since I felt I had slipped into a coma throughout: 1/10

Buy it from Big Finish here:


Peakius Baragonius said...

Wow that line about the Rolling Stones is baaaaad...

Erik Runnels said...

So I LOVE Big Finish. As such, I've been buying and listening to these suckers in order. And before Dreamtime, there have been favorite stories ... and ones that are not-so-favorite (Minuet In Hell and Nekromanteia come to mind), but there's been something I've enjoyed in every single story ... until now.

I mean, the reason I stumbled across your review in the first place is because, there I was, listening to Dreamtime, completely scratching my head, when I realized I just had to stop and see if anyone could explain what the heck was going on to me.

As far as I can tell, this story involves the Doctor and crew happening upon a stone city atop an asteroid, beneath a see through dome. Simultaneously, an alien salvage crew happens upon the same asteroid. Oh. And apparently, there are people here or something and the army is trying to evacuate them, even though they really don't want to go. At some point, the doctor is turned to stone.

And that is it. Yep. That basically covers episode one and I had/have ZERO idea what happens after that. It feels as if, since then, I've listened to someone reading like 40 minutes of fortune cookie notes.

Long story short, thanks for this review. You - apparently - feel exactly as I do. Shwoo. Misery loves company, so now I feel just a bit better.

Yep. Worst Big Finish story by far! 1 out of 10 indeed!!