Wednesday, 8 June 2011

The Fragile Yellow Arc of Fragrance written by Moris Fahri (adapted by Nigel Robinson) and directed by John Ainsworth

What’s it about: Fragrance is a paradise world – a utopia that the travellers are loathe to leave after a relaxing stay. But the way of life is different here. And so is the way of love – as Barbara discovers when the Fragile Yellow Arc is broken…

Hmm: The Doctor beams with pride as his ship is lavished with such attention and praise. Ian always thought he didn’t like people examining it too closely in case anybody got it into their heads to build another one like it!

Schoolteachers in Love: Barbara loved the world of Fragrance more than she ever imagined, the musky smell of orange and the emerald green oceans. Realistically she should be happy to stay on Fragrance and not return to the Earth but she loves her home planet, its beauty and its ugliness, its golden heart and its insanity. Away from it she finds that she loves and misses everything about it. She understands it is inferior compared to Fragrance but she still yearns for it.

You would imagine that it would be the Doctor who would suspicious of aliens studying the TARDIS but it is Ian who can see through their plans to build another.

Alien Chic: This story touches on Susan’s pain as she yanked from one time to the next. Whether she makes friends or begins a new education, the Doctor will yank her from any time to continue their travels. She hasn’t fallen in love but she understands it. The one improvement Fragrance has over Macedon is its treatment of Susan – she was pushed into the background of the epic and gave its best moments to Ian and Barbara. Here Susan’s emotional attachment is what underpins the drama as she begs for Barbara to stay to save Rhythm’s life.

Great Ideas: Whilst the show would become more experimental in its second year the first season saw every story begin in the same fashion with the travellers in the TARDIS and stepping out into a new time and place. Having this story begin with Barbara firmly ensconced on Fragrance and clearly having explored and formed relationships with people is a surprisingly modern touch. Each person goes through two phases on this planet, the thin purple arc and the fragile yellow arc. Childhood to maturity is one span of their lives and love is the second stage where you build a life together with someone else who is also in this stage. If you are no longer in love you must die, it can only happens once and if one of the two sides of this bridge of love fails it will fall. If Barbara rejects Rhythm he must set sail on a burning boat to the sun. We learn something of TARDIS control console with panels revealing the ships speed, its distance it travels and its passage through time. It can travel 186,000 miles per second – the speed of light! Fragrance lacks the three elements that are necessary for the ship to be constructed and work and more importantly, the blueprints.

Audio Landscape: Lapping waves on the shore of Fragrance, birdsong.

Musical Cues: Not as strong as the last story but still good, I particularly liked the tense undercurrents during the sequences in the TARDIS.

Standout Scene: There’s a lovely moment when Barbara snaps at Ian when he seems surprised that Rhythm has fallen in love with her and he tentatively asks if she feels the same way. Undercurrents… The last scene is exceptional because it captures our emotions and our sense at once.

Result: Whereas Farewell Great Macedon felt like a genuine Hartnell historical with a few continuity tweaks that would have been ironed out, Fragrance is a much more interesting proposition as a lost story because it explores on the idea that the TARDIS is a machine that was built by the Doctor which was never suggested in the series. However whereas Macedon was a sprawling epic of sensuality and character, Fragrance handles its powerful ideas with a brisk naiveté and doesn’t feel as if we are around long enough to get a good grasp on either the planet or Barbara’s romance. As a fascinating peek in on another take on the series it is priceless and well worth a listen and it would have made a far more intriguing pause in the action between the historical and science fiction epics than The Edge of Destruction. The ending is very bold and sees Barbara make an impossible decision and has it selfishly snatched away from her by the Doctor: 7/10

Buy it from Big Finish here:


Chad Moore said...

Another great review! I thought this was a lovely little story.

Anonymous said...

Interestingly I prefer this one to Macedon. I think that its the very experimental nature of this story. The travellers don't fix anything. The Doctor is written as he was in the first three stories, completely selfish and thinking only of his and Susan's well being. The concept was also a neat little science fiction story. It's almost as if Doctor Who crossed over with The Twilight Zone. John Dorney shows how versatile he is going from the heroic and masculine Alexander to the effeminite Rhythm. The one line in this story that continues to haunt me though is that Barbara "dared to call Rhythm friend". This seems to sound as if Barbara either did not make friends easily or didn't make friends with men easily. This is never hinted at in the series at large and makes me wonder if there was more to that.

Either way, I really liked this one and like you wonder what it would have been like if this was developed into a 2-parter.

David Pirtle said...

There's not a lot to this story, but at the same time there's a lot 'to' this story. As a two-parter I feel the powerful ideas that were only touched upon could have been better explored, and I was thinking the exact same thing while listening about how it would have made a much more interesting gap-filler than The Edge of Destruction. As it is, it's still a nice listen and a good bonus with the magnificent story it accompanies in The First Doctor Box Set of Lost Stories.