Monday, 25 July 2011

The Empire State written by Eddie Robson and directed by Edward Salt

What’s it about: A remarkable city once stood on a desert moon between six colony worlds: an entire city contained within a single vast tower. In honour of another great feat of architecture from an earlier age, the human pioneers who built the city christened it the EmpireState. The phrase 'once stood' would seem to imply that the city isn't there any more, and until yesterday it wasn't, having been destroyed almost a century ago. Indeed, Bernice Summerfield has reluctantly left behind a Braxiatel Collection in turmoil and launched an expedition to excavate the site of the EmpireState, and noted archaeologists like her rarely concern themselves with things that haven't been broken, ruined or lost. Yet now the EmpireState has reappeared as if the last century never happened, and the members of Bernice's expedition have been scattered throughout the city. One member in particular proves difficult to track down, which is awkward as Bernice believes that she may hold the key to what's happening at the EmpireState - and the means to save the Braxiatel Collection.

Archeological Adventuress: All eleven drinks that Bernice has had this evening had alcohol in and as a result she falls off her stool. Even she admits that she isn’t supposed to do this sort of thing anymore and act like a grown up these days. She never causes trouble, it just always seems to happen near her. Oddly Bernice seems to have the power to bring people back from the dead, fix broken glasses and generally wind back time. What has happened? Why did she want the stone? Because its got a lot of history behind it – what other reason do you need? She spends her life trying to rescue little pieces of the past before they are lost forever. With her new abilities inherited from Maggie she has to learn that it is not about bringing things back the way you want them but about bringing them back the way they were. Jason wasn’t quite what Bernice expected her husband to be like but sometimes it is good to get things you don’t expect. Everybody is relying on Benny to find Brax which is a lot of responsibility for somebody as irresponsible as she is. Bernice always imagined Rand to be a sad imbalanced loser who didn’t know what point he was trying to make and that is exactly what she created – hence his contradictory motives throughout that tale. Clever sod, that Robson.

Jason (bloody) Kane: I was howling with laughter at Jason’s attempt to get a reply from his ex wife when he sends her a message – pretending that war has broken out on the Collection and that he was cut up by bullets! ‘Did that get your attention?’ His third message to her is in the middle of a continuity shift and requires a temporal interpreter to make sense of it!

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘And tell them what? That he killed everybody and they all came back to life? We might come up a bit short on evidence!’
‘If we don’t look at the reason these things happen that means they just happen again.’
‘All hail the galactic hide and seek champion!’

Standout Performance: Doesn’t Phillip Edgerty sound like Stephen Fewell?

Great Ideas: Everybody is being freaked out by the crazy stuff that is going on in the Collection; Jason was trapped in an infinite corridor in the Masionhouse, people are going missing and not always the same when they are returning, the artefacts are changing and the Draconians are getting more aggressive in their bid to own the Collection. The Empire State, a dig that Bernice was supposed to excavate has made a surprising comeback! The State is one big tower which goes from half a mile underground and reaching all the way up to the lower atmosphere – what a great setting for a Bernice story! It is sad but true when the bartender tells Benny he is more likely to have noticed Maggie if she was good looking. Bernice came here for the Stone of Barter, it was a symbol of trading prowess and the big myth around it is that a trader asked a shaman to transmute him into the stone – that it had the power to trade their internal qualities as easily as they would exchange material goods. You could trade knowledge, skills, emotions and even paranormal abilities. It was found in the ruins of the city of the Empire State…which just so happens to be standing again. This place had been destroyed for almost a century and Bernice thought she had travelled back in time but its not her…the city has travelled back in time. When Bernice found the stone she absorbed something from it that somebody had given it centuries ago and the result is the city rebuilt itself. The Empire State was a refugee centre during two wars and during the interim period it had a renowned philosophy school. When Bernice brought everybody back she also brought back the man who blew up the city in the first place. He infiltrated the generator room and threw them out of balance and because the city keeps coming back he thinks he has failed so he tries over and over. Maggie touched the stone and was hoping to steal it and it took her powers and transferred them to Bernice. Maggie is a home made temporal physics experiment made from genetic material of her ‘father’ with fixer abilities hardwired into her DNA. She was made to clean up her fathers messes for him. Braxiatel planted his location in the stone a long time ago and Bernice needs to find him in order to fix all the crazy things that are going on on the Collection. Rand is well on his way to being the greatest mass murderer of them all although I’m not sure if killing multiple versions of the same people counts. Saf is the Watcher of the stone and of all the people who have had that job his watch as been the cushiest. The moon orbits the six planets and the city rotates to face them as it goes past and when Maggie is in the observation level at the highest point of the tower she uses the planets observation magnifiers to focus the good emotions on the planet, spreading them amongst the colonies. When she brought the Empire State back to life it wasn’t an accurate version of it but a hotchpotch of Bernice’s idea of it. Everybody is succeeding, ignoring the fact that everybody is contradicting each other. A long time ago Braxiatel paid an aesthetic an extremely rare talent to transform him into a crystallised lump of consciousness and he’s been hiding there for practically the whole of recorded history.

Audio Landscape: The story opens on a massive explosion that seems suck the blast back in and reverse! Burbling chatter, the bustle of the space port,

Standout Scene: Once Bernice has ingeniously figured out the real nature of the Empire State she realises there is only one person who can be the terrorist. It’s a bleak and inevitable ending and unexpectedly powerful.

Result: Bad things are brewing on the Collection, war seems inevitable between the Draconians and the Mim and Bernice is off trying to find an artefact that could save them all – Simon Guerrier has taken a weakening series and given it such a fantastic shot of adrenalin. It was a chore to get through the last season but I raced through this one such was the quality of the individual stories and my addiction to the ominous running narratives. And looking at the writers on board the next season looks like it could be even better. Eddie Robson cleverly weaves in scenes of Maggie and Rand that seem to have no relevance to the plot until you discover who was responsible for the terrorist act and it makes you want to go back and start the story again. The story opens with Benny (with super powers) standing in the resurrected city that should be in ruins and manages to find a highly engaging way of explaining it all. In some ways this does remind me of the earlier series with its economical cast forcing the writer to find surprising things about each character. Even the bar is ultimately important to the plot. The Empire States is Eddie Robson tossing out creative ideas like an imaginative firework and it might get confusing for some before the end but this is another Big Finish tale that it is worth figuring out to reap its rewards. The true nature of the stone is a genuine surprise: 8/10

Buy it from Big Finish here:

No comments: