Monday, 18 February 2013

Gallifrey V Evolution written by Una McCormack and directed by Gary Russell

What’s it about: Before the fall of Project: Rassilon, the Regenerators of Gallifrey committed atrocities upon their slaves in the name of science. As Leela discovers the results of one such crucible, Romana and Narvin are pushing forward ways to discover the secrets of time travel, and jump-start their new Gallifrey’s evolution. However, science isn’t always the way forward, and in a society built upon the foundations of amorality and fear, a backward step may be the only solution…

Presidential Babe: For her to not be bored is a rare thing these days. You and me both, love.

Noble Savage: Leela is trusted by the ex-slaves because she is an honest soul who doesn’t only look out for herself. Its one of the things that made her stand out on Gallifrey Prime too. She has vampire enhanced sense these days and can hear a pin drop. I honestly don’t believe that Louise Jameson could give a poor performance but this material almost pushes her to give a heartless one because Leela sounds so fed up with everything that is going on in this story and I was on the verge of losing interest in her character too. Unthinkable.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Let’s not count on our scientific breakthroughs until they have well and truly broken through’ is about as imaginative as the dialogue gets here. 

Dreadful Dialogue: ‘So you conducted some kind of psycho-genetic surgery on that enables them to visualise and then materialise this pathway. They give it shape, then give it form…’ What the frig are they talking about?

Great Ideas: Romana bringing together the cleverest minds that this Gallifrey can offer to work on a way back to her Gallifrey is the smartest thing she has done in over six releases. Temporal science in this universe is intellectually stuck (is that a technical term?), it has been trapped for a generation between two competing theories. Their attempts to move time have been analogous to moving between pages in a book…but time isn’t static, its change. A signal has been coming from the vortex which could be from Braxiatel. Its possible we are supposed to get excited by this.

Audio Landscape: A horrid whiny noise fills the first scene, applause.

Isn’t it Odd: The more I think about it, the more it angers me. The whole premise of this season of Gallifrey (can three stories constitute a season?) seems to be an effort to escape this alternative Gallifrey. It feels like Gary Russell wants to have his cake (by proving that the alternative universe was a worthwhile approach oh yes it was!) and eat it (by appeasing the audience with constant suggestions that we will leave this dreary version of Gallifrey soon). It does the series a disservice because even though the time spent away may produce a solution to the reason they had to leave in the first place they could have happily have solved that in the first story of Gallifrey IV. And it does this season a disservice because it is a constant reminder that our time here is short and that we shouldn’t really give a damn about events because they will all be irrelevant when we eventually do hop back to Gallifrey Prime. I am perfectly happy to be proven wrong and for this whole alternative universe diversion to prove to be for a monumental purpose that is going to blow my mind away but somehow, given the current form, I doubt it. Frustratingly it is not possible for the regulars to have relationships in this setting because they are so obsessed with getting away and because they are split up most of the time (Leela and Romana have barely exchanged two words and that is the relationship that this series usually hinges on). They don’t even package the news that Maris is in league with Narvin against Leela into a surprise for the audience – we’re informed of this early on which makes Leela look like an idiot (despite being told that her senses are sharper than ever) and leaves us waiting for the penny to drop. Its rarely a smart move to let your audience get that far ahead of the characters. Where has the Castellan vanished to? Why wasn’t Maris introduced in Emancipation to make her betrayal of Leela cut a little deeper (or at all?). Leela and Romana are so on the periphery of the events that eventually take place its hard to care. It feels like they can just skip off and let them get on with it. The dramatic crescendo of a climax seems to consist of Matthias shouting Dr Frankenstein style that he has achieved his apotheosis whilst everybody else reacts in horror at a threat that I seriously didn’t have a clue about. I was clueless. All this talk of the White Lands. Trust me this is not the Tripods trilogy. Apparently there was some kind of analogy of prisoner experimentation running through this story which completely bypassed me until the end when Romana condemned Matthias for committing acts of treason. That would have been a far more worthwhile (and emotive) angle for this story to have taken. Unbelievably, Narvin and Romana discuss whether she would have made the tough choices had things not gone their way. Are you kidding me? Instead of forcing the characters to make tough decisions the writer takes the easy route and has them discuss off-handedly afterwards what they would have done? Yeah, because that’s the more interesting option.

Result: At one point throughout this adventure Romana uttered the immortal words ‘let us hope that this is genuinely interesting…’ You should never tempt fate like that. Evolution is not so much uninteresting but irrelevant. It's so hard to be engaged by the events that are taking place on this world not only because they are unfolding at a glacial pace, feature inadequately drawn characters and fail to provide any significant surprises but also because we’re constantly reminded that this isn’t where any of the main characters want to be. How can we get involved in the action if Romana is on the verge of a complete borderm (she mentions it about three times in this story), Leela is just killing time with a cause until she can go home and the populace of this planet are so gullible that they cannot see that they are being used in order to expedite their return to Gallifrey Prime. Is this what comes of digging your heels in and sticking around on an alternative Gallifrey when even the regulars point out that it is tedious to do so? Where nothing significant happens over three hours of storytelling? Who are these people on this planet? Do they have lives beyond the plot mechanics of these stories? Does anybody have a sense of humour? Why should we care? If an author as strong as Una McCormack can be strangled by the irrelevances of this arc there is something very seriously going wrong with this range. Once again nothing seems to have happened (check out episode one of Brotherhood of the Daleks where triple the amount of events and surprises occur in half an hour than has been achieved in Gallifrey V over four times that running time) but people standing around pontificating. Trust me, that really isn’t as interesting as it might seem if they aren’t talking about anything worth listen to. This never once feels like McCormack’s work or at least not the engaging fantasy tie-in writer that I am accustomed to. She’s much better than this. Evolution is an offensively bad audio, impenetrable to newcomers and an extreme distortion of anything that made this range great to its following. Even Louise Jameson sounds uninterested: 1/10

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