Saturday, 15 February 2014

Dark Eyes II Part Three: Time's Horizon written by Matt Fitton and directed by Nicholas Briggs

What's it about: The Doctor and Molly find themselves at the very edge of creation. But something dangerous seems to be heading back into the known universe from the very end of time. The crew of the cryo-ship Orpheus, including its medical officer Liv Chenka, have their mission parameters to adhere to; but the arrival of the Doctor and Molly changes everything. An ancient and terrible force is on a collision course with them all and the outcome seems to be a matter of divine destiny.

Battle Scarred: When something happens in his presence that sees the loss of many lives, the Doctor tells himself that everything happens for a reason. Well this certainly did...because he asked the Daleks to do it! How he can justify that with a wave of the hand baffles me but then perhaps this is the beginning of the war torn Doctor we saw in Night of the Doctor, taking his first steps to treading on the little people in order to keep the bigger picture in check. There was a time recently when he tried to reach the end of the known universe but there are so many different endings s which one do you choose from?

Dark Eyes: The Doctor's response to Molly's nickname for the TARDIS is that she is hardly ever tardy. She wants to go somewhere fantastic with the Doctor but then she wants him to take her home. She has a life of her own in he world and this is just a holiday for her. That seems to be all the rage these days, what with Amy, Rory and Clara all popping back home to pick their lives up whenever they reach the end of an adventure. It's starting to become a little old hat. I rather like the Doctor's companions to head off with him into time and space and never look back. What could possibly compare to that? However in Molly's case I can understand more than most. She's come from a war torn world whose conflict has just come to an end...who wouldn't want to be a part of the celebrations and the healing? I'm on the fence then. She's getting to know what questions to ask - where they are in time or space? She is a woman of irrefutable logic - it can't be impossible if it just happened. Molly doesn't know much about future technology but she is savvy enough to recognise that explosions close the engines is a bad idea. Molly tries her best to make analogies to things she understands and so the Eminence breathe of life becomes a cloud of mustard gas through her eyes. Molly has such trust in the Doctor that she questions Liv's versions of future events. She stresses that maybe there is something that she doesn't know, a fact that explains why whatever happened happened.

Survivor: As far as Liv is concerned this takes place after The Traitor, as far as he is concerned it takes place before. It's all getting a bit River Song, this. It means that Liv can blow the whistle on the Doctor's co-operation with the Daleks before he gets a chance to live those events (it is also a good get-out clause...he has to appear to be working with them to destroy the alien fleet because that is what Liv saw and informed him about). The interaction between Liv and Molly is excellent, initially distrustful of one another and with Molly trying to convince Liv that her opinion of the Doctor is flawed. Straight talking dialogue that shows them both as tough women who have to prove themselves to each other. Unbeknownst to Liv her reputation as 'the Traitor' has followed her. After all this is over, Molly hopes that she and Liv can be friends. Liv shows Randall her memories and there is a suggestion that she has seen or done some very dark things. It's enough to drive him from her mind. Her willingness to take her own life in such a painful way to save the day is all the Doctor needs to hear to race to her in time and prevent it. Although it does beg the questions of why he didn't do the same thing for Alex and Lucie. Liv isn't sure if it makes sense travelling with the Doctor after the horrifying act she saw him commit in his future.

Standout Performance: It's Paul McGann's turn to take centre stage. He even sounds more like the War Doctor from Night of the Doctor than the old cuddly romantic from the early Big Finish days. Whether this is a move for the better is up to you to decide...I rather like it. Although I would like him to have some lighter days too. When he's angry, he sounds like he is capable of anything.

Sparkling Dialogue: 'At any given moment the universe is ending for some poor soul...'
'This is madness. You've drilled a hole without of what you might be letting out!'

Great Ideas: This picks up precisely where The Traitor left off with the Daleks taking out the alien fleet at the edge of the galaxy that he was so keen to get rid off. And then follows Liv Chenka's story as she escapes from the Daleks and winds up on the Orpheus. A vast power source sitting just beyond the Orpheus, a temporal wave front (have I slipped into Star Trek Voyager?). Orpheus are long range explorers, tiny habitation modules yoked to a massive engine array. They were fired off in all directions, a million light years from home just to see what's out there. It's crew frozen and their minds backed up on computer to avoid synaptic damage. The Eminence have surfed a wave back through time from far, far in the future. There's is the last mind in creation, they are the singularity that fills the void at the end of everything. Their destiny is to control all living things. Fitton gives us a little taster of what is to come later in the third series of the 4DAs, the Doctor and Leela visiting a future where all humankind is slaved to the Eminence. I hope it lives up to its promise. That is what they want to come to pass, to fulfil that destiny. The Eminence waged war against humanity with armies of slaves led by infinite warriors, mummified foot soldiers infused with the breathe of life. Randall Veran is a master of espionage at reasonable rates and has been hiding away inside of Liv for centuries whilst she has slept. There is an energy crisis in the time of the 20th Empire and the authorities received the data logs from the Orpheus logs in three centuries time detailing unlimited energy source. He time hopped on board a year after launch fixed a frakking beam onto the primary grid to drill through the wave front and extract the primary goodness. He's been waking up in Liv's body every fifty years to lay a trail, adapting the communication buoys. They might lose 30% but that still leaves 70% of infinity to be exploited. In the future he is dead, he's a ghost talking out of somebody else's lips. Well I can't say I saw any of this coming but it certainly does tie up most of the loose ends and answer all the questions I had about the whys and where's of the Orpheus and it's operations. It's nice to get an unexpected sting in the tale sometimes and I really enjoyed how the tables were turned and Randall went from being a smug, rich criminal to a desperate ghost of a man trying to do anything to survive. It's even more clever to play this all out through Liv, cutting out the need for an extra actor. Vi is a wonderfully tricky character, doing whatever she can to survive whether that means siding with the Eminence, being their spokesperson or becoming an Infinite Warrior. Apparently a coward, she ultimately proves the bravest of the characters in this tale. The Eminence are sent back through Time's Horizon to whether it is they came from...but you can sure they will try again one day. I did wonder what the point of the Ides Institute section of Dark Eyes I was all about as it seemed to have no connection whatsoever with the central storyline...finally that little piece of the jigsaw is going to be answered. The Master makes a brief cameo at the story's conclusion, saving the life of Dr Sally Armstrong of the Ides Institute.

Audio Landscape: Firing a weapon of mass destruction (or at least that's what it sounds like!), destroying an alien fleet, a spaceship landing, the console room hum, a scream in the distance, alarms (lots of alarms!), intercom, a body calcifying, depressurising a section and sending the Eminence corpses flying into space, laser blasts, a car shooting past blaring its horn.

Isn't it Odd: An advanced form of frakking drill? Frakking? Really?

Result: Hurrah! Opens like a regular Doctor Who story with the Doctor and his assistant drawn to a mystery in an intriguing setting packed with well drawn characters. If that sounds crushingly dull then I am doing Time's Horizon a disservice because the fact that it plays out like a traditional Doctor Who story (and a good one at that) is one it's biggest strengths. Continuing the Trial of a Time Lord theme, it is the third story in sequence which works best as a standalone adventure despite having threads that will continue on into the rest of the set. Fitton remembers to give this adventure a self contained narrative outside of its arc elements. With them appearing in three different eras now (Doctors four, six and eight), the Eminence are starting to make something of an impression and are exactly what I have been asking for quite some original race of monsters that make the same impact as all the returning baddies that Big Finish (probably for marketing and sales purposes) are obsessed with reusing. They are far nastier here than they were in The Seeds of War with the focus on extreme body horror and injecting them into a claustrophobic setting that adds a great deal of tension to events. The combination of the Doctor, Molly and Liv works very well and hope they both stick around for the next Dark Eyes set. Ruth Bradley and Nicola Walker have extremely good, brassy chemistry and it would be a shame not to exploit that further. I don't want you to think that this is some kind of Doctor Who masterpiece, it is ultimately a strong spaceship under siege story but has no ambitions beyond that. However on those terms it is (once again) vividly directed by Nicholas Briggs and dramatised by a man who has frequently ticked all my boxes of late. Matt Fitton understands that we need to get to know the characters if we are to care about them and that the threat has to be invasive rather than just conceptual. He also seems to have a firm grasp on the Eminence and gets the opportunity to scribble in some of their back story in Time's Horizon. He even has a couple of surprises up his sleeve in the last third. I really enjoyed this instalment, I just wish this was how the Dark Eyes II box set had begun: 8/10

1 comment:

rumblebars said...

Yeah, that "fracking drill" analogy was a really poor choice. In hydraulic fracturing, the drill doesn't fracture anything. Fracking occurs after the hole is drilled.

However, I agree that it was one of the few things about this episode that was bad. I thought it a pretty good story.