Tuesday, 18 October 2011

The Final Amendment written by Joseph Lidster and directed by Gary Russell

What’s it about: Forget the war and death and boring stuff like that with another trip to the Braxiatel Collection!
"A welcome return of an old favourite!" – Earth Empire News
"A moving parable on what it is to be human in these ever-changing times." – BFM
"Glorious, crukking filth! Hooray!" – Moonmaker
"Something of a curate's egg." – Fandomania
Joined by friends old and new, Jason Kane returns for his 15th series! Will Benny find out about him and Bev? Or about him and Adrian? What is the mysterious connection between Joseph and Doggles? Will Brax ever reveal his sinister plans? And just who the hell is Kadiatu Lethbridge-Stewart?

Archeological Adventuress: Benny is here because of a note given to her by a shape shifting alien sponge not to escape her family. As the unfortunate subject of Jason’s holovid empire Benny is often misremembered as other famous characters (the Empress screams ‘Gerrouta my pub!’ at her!) and has irritating slogans (‘Benny to her friends!’). Kadiatu doesn’t want to rake over old ground and cannot believe that Bernice has gotten so old. Sometimes it seems only yesterday that it was her, Kadiatu, Chris, Roz and him…and in other ways it was so long ago. Jason and Benny have been talking about having a child together and have been working on it (Lidster you are a bad man punishing the audience and the character like this!). People say she could do better but she knows Jason is a bit of a cock and gets on with it because she loves him. With Bernice infected by chronon energies from her travels in the time vortex and Kadiatu genetically altered that makes them the closest thing to aliens on the Earth and public enemies numbers one and two. Benny knows that being human is about what you believe in, about making choices and about love (yes she has her own Benny Summerfield moment to cap off the story, aww…). The clone Jason is killed and Benny is haunted by it, completely unaware that she is about to return home to this as a reality… Her blood curdling scream in the trailer for the next story is one of the most painful sounds you will hear in an audio.

An Old Friend: Its always lovely to meet up with old friends and to take characters from novels and give them a voice and to give Sara Carver some real credit this is exactly what I imagined Kadiatu sounding like. First showing up in the controversial New Adventure Transit and then in Set Piece, The Also People and Happy Endings where Benny had some serious issues with the Doctor’s manipulation (and near murder if she hadn’t intervened) of her. Kaddy is totally one hundred percent sane and hasn’t killed anybody in years. Rather than being appalled at the sight of a clone of herself Kaddy is delighted that she looks so fantastic! When she learns the truth about the coming of the clones Kaddy is desperate to get back and save Howard because she has feelings for him much to Benny’s amusement. She likes to call her alterations human plus but there are traces of alien in there as well. Seeing Howard die cuts in her aggression and she becomes a vicious growling monster which is exactly what the clones want to show off to prove how dangerous aliens are. Wonderfully it is all ruse and she has full control over her faculties. Given that both Howard and Fiona are officially declared dead (when it was actually their clones) the real Howard and Fiona decide to travel with Kaddy for a time. Maybe we’ll bump into them again soon.

Standout Performance: Lisa Bowerman is certainly game for a laugh and the way she sends up her signature character so completely had me in stitches! She takes a character that she usually plays at around 7ish and notches it up to 10 so everything is grotesquely exaggerated from her sex mad nature, her melodramatic exclamations, her sarcasm and how she pussy whips her husband. ‘We’re all one family! Goddess be praised!’

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Sherlock Holmes was at your wedding Benny, it was hardly an exclusive event!’
‘Its that woman of the telly! Bertha whatsherface!’
‘Oh that Jason, he’s a lovable twat alright!’
‘Oh Bernice you’re the daughter I always wanted! I want you to call me Daddy!’ – Brax in Jason’s dreadful soap opera!
‘You’ll be why humanity goes to die in the heavens!’

Great Ideas: The opening scene taking the piss out of Bernice’s crazy adventures couldn’t have bee more apt (especially with her sudden exclamation that Jason is alive!) and I loved how they used Nicholas Briggs’ ominous tones and catchphrases to make you think it really is a Big Finish advertisement! Within seconds Jason and Adrian are getting off with each other, Benny has cancer and there’s even a song! Unfortunately this is a holovid as written by Jason (bloody) Kane so ‘adventure is his game and he wants to play with you!’ I love it when a series is smart and confident enough to rip its own mistakes to shreds! ‘I don’t know why you watch this rubbish – I just don’t get it!’ – who’s mother hasn’t said that to them with regards to Doctor Who? Jason’s lurid novels have been captured on film over 15 agonisingly inaccurate series! Clones are made with their DNA and used to play out these saucy scenarios. Jason did a chat show once and came across as a right prat and he has even endorsed a Bernice Summerfield action figure (with catch phrases like ‘Oh Goddess I could do with a drink!’). Since the Draconian war and the skirmish with the Daleks (and their puppets The Fifth Axis) things have started to go wrong on the Earth, aliens have started being banished from the planet and suddenly there is an air of xenophobia in the air. Civil liberties have been dropped and you can’t go anywhere or do anything without being monitored. The first sign of any unco-operative behaviour and you are gone, sent to a lunar penal colony for their own protection. The Empress is revealed to be a clone in a great Invasion of the Body Snatchers style moment where she unveils a clone of Howard to Howard and says that they are taking over the planet. They have been systematically preparing the planet for their own needs, depriving the human race of an kind of hope for the future. It turns out that Bernard Jones, father of Clarissa, was the man who bred the clones on the Stone Hauser medical facility (that keeps coming up in various stories and I love the way that an apparently accidental event in the war has been linked to so many of the different plots so intelligently this year). Bernard believed that the human race supreme and that mankind was the only true being – dangerous ideals when you possess such an intelligence. He gave Fiona his own racist beliefs, his humanity and spirit because he wanted his wife and daughter to live in a universe free of warfare with alien races. Fiona was programmed to take over the Empire and in the event of his death his dreams would still go ahead. When the Medical Facility was destroyed the programming kicked in, the clone killed the real Fiona and took over. Bernice is convinced that somewhere in this whole complicated, murky business Braxiatel is the mastermind behind this entire affair although this is never substantiated. The clones end the Jason Kane series by having Adrian slaughter Jason and thus denying the human race even the small slither of hope the programme gave them. News reports start broadcasting about a new alien threat called Project Narcissus but since this is an entirely made up panic tactic to stir up xenophobia of course there are no details to substantiate it. They started a blaming aliens for all of societies faults which turned out t be surprisingly easy because it was what people wanted to hear. The plan is to make a final amendment to the laws of the Empire which will confirm human superiority and deny any alien the basic right to exist. Howard was killed to show that the Empress’ son has been killed by aliens and nobody is safe. It turns out the clone of Fiona was strong enough to break her programming, she just needed to be reminded of her humanity. After the clone Fiona’s suicide and the news broadcast that she has already named her successor as the leader of the Empire…the first name that came into my head was Braxiatel. But brilliantly it turns out to be a clone of Benny!

Audio Landscape: Rain splattering, pub chatter, Benny listening to voices as she slowly falls unconscious, applause and whooping, Benny gagged and mouthing some vile obscenities, robot bartender (I think that is Gary Russell too!), a vending machine that sounds just like those in Paradise Towers, protesters, door opening, all of Benny’s friends’ clones (Bev, Adrian, Jason, Brax) stating ‘Bernice Summerfield must die!’, Kadiatu’s TARDIS taking off.

Musical Cues: As typically excellent as ever, I especially love the crashing drums as all the clones turn on Benny.

Isn’t it Odd: Since he is directing we will allow this appearance and this time Gary Russell is playing the part of a bartender! I seriously think there should be a Doctor Who story where there are two super geniuses, one played by Nick Briggs and the other played by Gary Russell, where they have a dastardly plan to seed the universe with their genes. In a moment of audio madness we can have a montage of their many appearances in all manner of Big Finish series’ as proof that their scheme has succeeded! Mind you that would be one long last scene.

Standout Scene: The snippets of the sitcom features Bernice as a screaming harridan when she catches Jason and Bev canoodling sounds truly awful. Does anybody know where I can get all 15 series? We realise in a moment of tragic co-incidence that the last time Benny speaks to Jason (we heard the other half of this conversation in The End of the World not long before his murder at the hands of Braxiatel and Peter) is just minutes after she has discovered his latest tragic money making scheme that places her humiliatingly in the centre of it. I thought she was unsympathetic in the previous story when he called her for some comfort but given what she has discovered here her black mood is actually pretty mild. She will have to live with the fact that her last words she said to her ex husband were ‘rot in hell’ and ‘you’ve really upset me’. Ouch.

Notes: There’s a few lines of ‘Butterflies and Cake’ from The Worst Thing in the World.

Result: Joe Lidster is such a clever writer and he manages to snuggle in a compelling treatise on xenophobia whilst hilariously parodying the range. Its one of the most enjoyable stories in a season that has, on the whole, been quite serious (grippingly so) and fires some great gags at you whilst tell an energetic tale of a clone invasion and weaving in more New Adventures continuity by re-introducing Kadiatu. The tone is deceptively light and amusing but the dialogue remains thoughtful and handles a contemporary issue with some confidence. Its lovely to see Bernice return to Earth (something I don’t recall ever happening before in this time period) and investigating the dark manipulation the planet has undergone and the insane plan of the clones feels as though we have stepped back into a Doctor Who story. I thoroughly enjoyed this as an antidote to The End of the World’s striking dramatics and really hope Lidster doesn’t stay away from the range for too long because he really understands its playful and powerful tone. Ending with Bernice discovering about Jason’s death, I can’t wait to see where we go from here: 9/10

1 comment:

Christopher Connor said...

Project Narcissus isn't made up. It's explained in the book Nobody's Children. It was a really horrible tactic used during the Second Dalek War by "the Institute" (either the Forge or Torchwood). They brainwashed baby Mim, then teleported them into Dalek hatcheries, where they shapeshifted into Kaled mutants and were fitted with armor. They became Earth Empire sleeper agents/spies in the Dalek ranks. At the time of The Final Amendment, the Institute is still trying to revive the project for peacetime use against potential rivals like the Draconians.