Friday, 14 October 2011

Jason Kane: The End of the World written by Dave Stone and directed by Lisa Bowerman

What’s it about: "So for a long time – years now, really – I've had this growing suspicion that everything was, well, everything was just wrong…" Jason Kane – author, adventurer, hero and inveterately polysyllabic hyperbolist. Now join him on his most exciting adventure yet! He's going to Hell and back on an impossible quest to stop a man with the powers of a god. Along the way there's monsters and explosions and unseemly contretemps in the odd posh restaurant. The battle will be hard and require every last iota of Jason's famous cunning. What can possibly go wrong? [Bernice Summerfield is away]

Jason (bloody) Kane: Its hard to dislike a character like Jason who screams of lost potential and always tries to do the best and yet somehow always manages to put his foot in it somehow. He and Benny met under conditions that were hardly ideal and their impromptu marriage was an emotionally explosive affair. Its hardly surprising that once they had the honeymoon period out of the way they realised they really didn’t know each other very well. So when Big Finish picked up the Bernice character they brought Jason back fairly quickly and we got to see them grow into their relationship with all their previous mistakes a warning of how not to do things a second time around. It has been a funny, sexy, convincingly difficult journey but the conclusion they both came to after Fifth Axis invasions and Cyber conversions is that they love each other. We’ve had Stephen Fewell to thank for giving that extra layer of depth in his portrayal of Jason and he and Lisa Bowerman have shared some wonderfully memorable relationship moments. Its fitting that Jason (and Fewell) should get centre stage in his final appearance (and that it should be directed by Lisa Bowerman too) and it is gripping to listen to a determined Jason, willing to risk anything to get the life back that Braxiatel stole and to expose the insane Time Lord and his manipulations. I find it astonishing that this series would take such a jaw dropping step in its continuing story but it is the exactly the shock exit that a character that has had this much impact deserves.

The first scenes is absolutely heartbreaking considering I already knew the outcome of this story but Jason sends a message to Bernice telling her that he just wanted to hear her voice, he is going to try and put everything right that went wrong and that because everybody know how crap he is he will probably get it so spectacularly wrong. Having been pushed from pillar to post his entire life he refuses to leave a restaurant because he doesn’t look like the right class of person – you can hear a hint of desperation in Fewell’s voice that really stresses the disappointments in his life. Jason is worried that people see him as a man who always has an agenda and sees people as the tools to achieve it. Jason states the universe is out to screw everybody over and when it has had enough of that it kills you – he might not have been so flippant if he knew these were prophetic words. As he takes the step to reclaiming the parts of his life that Braxiatel has stolen he has the terrifying feeling that there was something in his life that he was supposed to do and now he is going to find out what. It was his sister, that was what Braxiatel made him forget. He never went back and saved his sister from his obscene father. He had the chance to kill his father but instead he chooses to warn him of his behaviour and ensure that he knows that he is being watched. Jason’s dying words are that he understands why Peter is killing him, so he knows he wasn’t responsible.

Before everything went wrong at home Jason remembers them being a nice, white, middle class family. He was one of those isolated, friendless kids who nobody understood because he was special and nobody else was as special as he was. He was a shrill and clueless pre-teen political who was physically sick that people could put other people in concentration camps, terrified that nukes were going to bomb them flat and determined to be nice to black guy. His abuse from his father was sustained and ritualised and it is inside of you all the time. In the school holidays his father had more time to play about with his sister before people had to see her and over three days, once a day at the exact same time, he broke one of her fingers. If they were living in some scummy housing estate the Social Services would have been around straight away but because they were nice and white and middle class and they don’t do things like that the mechanisms to deal with it weren’t in place. His mother was one of the two most important people in his life and when she doesn’t stop him and even covers up for him it is like she is collaborating. One day he had just had enough, he packed his bags and he left. Left his mum and sister to deal with the monster.

Archeological Adventuress: Benny is the living proof that you should never, ever, say goodbye to somebody on an argument because you don’t know if you will ever see them again. She has to live with the fact that the last thing she said to him was that she hopes he rots in hell (the other side of this conversation will play out in The Final Amendment which runs concurrently with this story). We learn that Braxiatel did have a hand in preventing the birth of Benny and Jason’s other two children because they would have taken up too much of her time. She is special, she has a role to play at Braxiatel’s side. Benny is prepared to take the difficult decision and Brax saw that in her when they first met – that is what the Doctor saw in her at Heaven and that was why he took her with him.

Insane Genius: If people think that Jason is manipulative then Braxiatel thinks the whole damn universe is his toolbox to fiddle with. Braxiatel actively manipulates things, changes lives to fit some plan of his own and the worst thing is Jason is certain he isn’t doing it to simply be evil. Human lives get in the way, he disposes of them and he simply doesn’t care. Jason knows (because he has seen it) that at this point in his and Benny’s lives they should still be married and have two children, a son and a daughter, and that the reason they aren’t is because Brax has changed things. He also knows that the reason Ms Jones, a perfectly reasonable woman, went crazy, kidnapped Peter and wound up dead was all part of Brax’s schemes too. As though she was reading a script that was against her will. Clarissa Jones was really born six years ago to parents that were destroyed in the Stone Hauser medical facility which was destroyed in a Draconian raid in The Judas Gift. Did Braxiatel take her as a child and rear her for her role in the Collection, killing off her parents so there would not be that complication? Braxiatel is clever enough to not delete Jason’s important memories but the bits around the edges that make the important memories mean something. Clarissa Jones had to die because once they reach this point in the timeline she would have known that things were amiss because this was the time she was brought up. As Peter rips Uncle Jason to pieces Brax utters the immortal line ‘you were never good enough for her.’ What a bastard.

Standout Performance: Stephen Fewell is exceptional and the scene where he tells Benny about his fathers ritualised abuse of his family had me streaming with tears.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Significant portions of your timeline have been excised. Not just rediverted or altered…they’ve been deleted’ – Jason learns that Braxiatel has been playing about with his life even more than he already suspected.
‘There never was a war between the Draconians and the Mim until you changed things.’
‘I’m really not responsible for everything you’ve ever done that might be stupid, Jason.’
‘It stops now, Brax!’ ‘And just who precisely is going to stop me?’

Great Ideas: The enormous space octopus that Jason and Mira couldn’t handle turns out to be a Calamari Surprise from an all you can eat restaurant! Jason is right, true stories are often banal and ordinary but they also pack way more of a punch. You get into the guts of things and edit them, delete things and change the processes, change the way things work you just don’t know what you’ll end up with down the line – Jason has been edited by Braxiatel and who knows where he will end up. There is an astonishing sequence that sees Mira and Jason discussing the difference between soldiers that are trained to be the instruments of government and State whose actions exist on a different moral level than uncontrolled violence that simply happens, domestically or socially. Nano worms ate Mira’s central nervous system and replaced it to design and she now comes with an in built set of professional ethics – she can murder in a job but socially she cannot use her skills with out express consent by the victim. Station Zero is one of the few coherent places in Fractured Time and used to be called The Tartarus Gate (of the story with the same name), one of the multiversal crossover points and one of the few that don’t come under the jurisdiction of the Time Lords. Its where Jason was stuck when he dropped off the face of the universe (The Infernal Nexus) and it is where the human visions of hell come from. There are some wonderful Stonian innovations such as the mind sucker fresh from the slime pits of detestable goolies! Jason dives into Fractured Time and reconnects with the parts of his life that were lost and he relays the data back to Mira who is his lifeline. The Collection is Braxiatel’s TARDIS and the space dock is the doorway back into normal space. It makes altering the timelines that much easier. He plucked Benny’s friend Keri from a thousand years in the future and rewrote her life as though she had always been from this time.

Audio Landscape: The bustle and music of a mezzanine, the ship descending, the hellish atmosphere in Fracture Time, the sticky, screaming mind sucker burrowing into Jason’s brain, the drunken ambiance of a bar, Jason vomiting, Jason travelling through time, Jason’s dad screaming at his family inside the house, birdsong, a ticking clock, Peter's savage growls.

Musical Cues: A fantastic David Darlington score, living up to its momentous events. We open we an emotive piano theme and there are some exciting plays on the regular theme tune. The classical music that plays over Jason’s murder was beautifully chosen.

Standout Scene: Jason returns home with solid proof of Braxiatel’s temporal manipulation and the tone of the piece is wonderfully optimistic that this will be the end of the Time Lord’s manipulations. Did he really think it would be that easy? Mirroring the scene in The Crystal of Cantus Jason confronts Brax and as soon he starts admitting that Jason is right and reveal even more of his tampering I had a sinking feeling in my gut. There could only be one reason why he would be this honest. Jason’s death is cruel, brutal and unexpected. I was literally slack jawed the first time I listened and it still gives me goosebumps today. Using Peter as the instrument of his demise was unbelievably malicious.

Notes: To fully appreciate this story you should also read Dave Stone’s novel The Two Jasons which precedes The End of the World which also retells the brilliantly funny meeting between Benny and Jason from Death and Diplomacy. The enormous space octopus is gorgeously depicted by Adrian Salmon on the cover of The Infernal Nexus. Jason’s ex business colleague Mira was mentioned in/turned up in various of the Virgin novels and also made an appearance in the novella Life During Wartime. Mira mentions the Plague Dogs which was a pirate group that she and Jason used to belong to. Jason and Mira head into Null Space or Fractured time which was first hypothesised in the New Adventure Return to the Fractured Planet. Agragazar, Jason’s travel agent employer was present in The Infernal Nexus.

Result: Dave Stone is another standout writer in the Bernice Summerfield range and here he does the audience a huge service by intelligently tying up years of plotting into Jason’s investigations of Braxiatel. It is entirely appropriate that the Jason’s creator should write his final story and tie in lots of continuity that has weaved in and out of his story over the years and remind us just how far he has come. This is the point of no return for Braxiatel – he has lied, manipulated and cheated his friends but murdering Jason because he has gotten to close to the truth is one kick in the gut too far for Bernice and Brax has stepped over the line from uneasy ally to enemy. And the fireworks haven’t even begun because she doesn’t know…yet. This is a beautifully written piece and that sees Jason at his intellectual and emotional best and allows Stephen Fewell to give one last, triumphant, performance. Lisa Bowerman’s direction is sublime because she understands that this piece needs to be all about Jason and so she strips away any sound effects during Fewell’s monologues to give them maximum impact. The last scene of this play is one of the most vital moments in any Big Finish production and I was slack jawed throughout as all the answers came spilling out of Braxiatel’s mouth. Spellbinding drama and the end of a very important chapter in Benny’s life: 10/10

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