Monday, 9 April 2012

The Adolescence of Time written by Lawrence Miles and directed by Lisa Bowerman

What’s it about: Earth is still suffering the after-effects of the asteroid (or something) which collided with the planet many years ago: the dust cloud which blots out the sun shows no sign of settling and the dinosaurs are doomed. Above the cloud, colonies of winged reptiles – more intelligent than any we know of – are fighting to survive. A strange creature calling itself Summerfield appears in their midst: is it destined to save them?

Archaeological Adventuress: After the time ring falls in the lava…65,000,000 years later Bernice digs it up again and comes back and saves him! Clever cow! Beyond working mother and bon vivant it says archaeologist on her CV and finding a working time ring in a volcano is all in a days work for her. She tries to explain to her son that these are people in the middle of an extinction event and it has to be allowed to happen in order for their future to be.

Angry Adolescent: Already Thomas Grant sounds more comfortable in the role and giving him the chance to take the limelight is a great chance to get to know the character of Peter better. Just two stories in and this new season is already finding new ways for the series to evolve beyond the regular cast and the Braxiatel Collection and suggests that dumping all of that baggage might have been the fresh direction that was needed. He doesn’t like to be treated as a child because he is considered to be pretty smart where he comes from. If you want to get on his good side call him Summerfield although they describe him as looking confused every time she opens his mouth. Dumping Peter 65,000, 000 years in the past is typical Lawrence Miles – absolutely insane and completely gripping. They describe his skin as soft to the touch as though he has been bred in captivity, there might be something in that. Peter understands that saving people is something of a family trait but wonders if his mother doesn’t get into more trouble than its worth in doing so. I really like his jaded opinion of Bernice – whilst it seems like the easy option that you should include an angst ridden teen that disapproves of his parents Peter isn’t really like that. He’s a smart kid who understands why they do what they do but sees a much quieter life if they avoided being quite so pro-active. The main difference however between him and someone like Dawn Summers from Buffy (who for two spectacular season played up to the hysterical teenager stereotype) is that Bernice is actually scared of Peter. He has killed in front of her eyes and was riled enough by Brax to murder his adopted father…he’s dangerous and that makes the dynamic much more interesting. Brilliantly he reasons that because he thinks like a mammal he can see things differently and comprehend what precisely the storms are and how they can be stopped. When asked to account for himself he describes himself as a ‘man’ rather than a child and given his maturity here I think it is a label that he deserves. He realises the importance of saving people and how it is necessary to sacrifice your life for a good cause.

Standout Performance: Its Thomas Grant’s breakout story but there is still the odd moment for the ever reliable Lisa Bowerman to shine. Its also wonderful to see Lois Baxter (The Androids of Tara) to make a return appearance in a Doctor Who spin off story.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Its not a storm. It’s a battle.’
‘You can’t kill me jut to get some peace and quiet!’ ‘I am the father of seventy! For peace and quiet I tear the sky open!’

Great Ideas: Peter takes hold of the time ring and it had decides to toss him back into the Cretaceous period where he lands in the middle of thin in a colony in the skies. To stand above the Earth and see the cloud of dust that was thrown up by the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs on the planet is an incredible image. The dinosaurs talk of their ‘sister’ races living on the surface, the ones who walk on the land the ones who colonise the sea. This is a great reference to the Silurians and the Sea Devils and ties beautifully into the continuity of the Doctor Who audio Bloodtide as they mention they are still trying to farm their animals on the surface and those animals were revealed in the sixth Doctor story to be the human race. They talk poetically about leaving the Earth as the cataclysm approached and losing many of their people to the asteroid. The very idea of Peter being able to fly a Pterodactyl through the dust cloud and dance around the Earth untainted by technology and fly between sky colonies of evacuated dinosaurs dazzles me. The worm pulls its slaves out of shape and poisons them and they attack en masse in the shape of a storm, coming out of nowhere and dropping burning rock on the colony. The worm colony is a whole lake of larvae bubbling and glowing. There is a genuinely apocalyptic feeling to events as the colony begins tearing itself apart as the sky turns against them. The Worm sent the time ring into the future to find Bernice, not Peter. Its is a child, always consuming but never full. How gorgeous to have a statue of Peter memorialised in the past for his bravery and for his mother to find in 65,000,000 years time and know where exactly in the past to go back and save him. Talk about tying everything up in a very satisfying bow.

Audio Landscape: Biting winds, crackling flames, flapping wings, whispering voices, chittering, screams, explosions, rubble breaking free, walking on crunchy ground, the screeching, purring Worm.

Standout Scene: Bernice turning up in the story at the last minute to save her son is a real moment of triumph because he has already proven what it takes to be a man and all he had left to do was die. Her rescue means that the story can have its cake and eat it.

Notes: The Worm tells Peter he has ‘flown from the beginning to the end’ with regards to time travel.

Result: Lawrence Miles has become something of a joke in later years with his abusive scratchings on his website attempting to criticise every nook and cranny of the new series that has exploited a wealth of talent from writers of the spin off media and that has singularly failed to include him. Its sad that to see him reduced to this level of banal back biting to get some attention because The Adolescence of Time proves that he is one of the greatest talents ever to touch the Doctor Who books and audios. He is never interested in doing things in a formulaic way and always looks at spanking new ways to explore long standing characters in fresh, imaginative situations. Frankly he would be a perfect fit for the TV show because his ideas are often ambitious and emotive but I fear he may have burnt all of his bridges behind him a long time ago. Having Bernice narrate this story at certain moments suggests this is her telling Peter a bedtime story but we get to experience the wonder of his adventures for real. There is some magical imagery that is buoyed by Lisa Bowerman’s strong direction (this is her sophomore effort in her own range and she is proving to be one of the best) and the resulting atmosphere is pure fairytale. Kudos too to Thomas Grant who the creators take a massive gamble with to give such a prominent role but it proves to be a gamble that pays off and his performance is mature and nuanced. Its not a story that drip feeds you answers all the way through and you have to work to make sense of it but everything comes together in the second half leading towards an extremely satisfying conclusion. For its top characterisation, intelligent detail and striking imagery this is another example of the Bernice range at its best and proof that even in its ninth year there are still great stories to be told: 9/10

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