What's it about: From time to time, everybody makes mistakes. Everybody has things from their past they'd like to undo, but nobody gets a second chance. What's done is done and we can't change that. Zoe's mistakes have led her to imprisonment at the hands of the Company. But when news reports trigger memories of the Doctor, Jamie and an appalling threat, she begins to sense a way out. An opportunity for redemption opens up to anyone willing to take it. Nobody can alter what's been done. Nobody gets a second chance. Or do they?
Brains'n'Beauty: Zoe is haunted by the events that happened on Artemis because she feels as though she failed the people who died, that her skills weren't good enough to stop the virus that was ripping through both metal and flesh. It was a valuable lesson for her to learn, to realise that sometimes she wasn't smart enough to make a difference. It punctured her ego and left a scar. Now in the present she has a chance to make amends for those deaths, to prevent the same thing from happening again. How could she possibly refuse? Being able to look at the Doctor and Jamie in the flesh again is an experience that cements her belief that she had more adventures with them than the one true memory of them that she can trust (their adventure on the Wheel with the Cybermen).
Who's the Yahoos: Jamie wants to know why the TARDIS never takes them back to Scotland and the Doctor cheekily suggests that the Ship might scared that he will leave if it does, to become a Laird.
Standout Performance: Wendy Padbury has always been critical of her interpretation of Patrick Troughton's second Doctor but she has nothing to worry about. She has perfected it to a fine art by this point, to a point where I would say she rivals even Frazer Hines' authentic portrayal. She's got both the subtle consideration and menace of the character and the panicked apologies to perfection. She also tackles two versions of Zoe (taking her voice up several registers when she is playing the younger version) and does a passable Scots accent too. Where I have had some issues with the storytelling in some of the Wendy Padbury narrated stories in the past I have never had a problem with the delivery itself. Padbury is a marvellous actress and this showcases her skills to a very high standard.
Sparkling Dialogue: 'Let's skip the capture and escape stuff. We don't need that. Let's not pad it out.'
'I don't remember. What a brilliant abdication of responsibility.'
'She gets to live, gets to dream of a second chance...'
Audio Landscape: Door opening, TARDIS arriving, party music, smacking out a fire, computers beeping, Zoe typing, asteroid strikes, creaking bulkheads, heart monitor, alarms, crackling fire, screams, the airlock door ripping away and people being sucked into space, the gunshot, the station breaking up around them.
Isn't it Odd: I wonder if this story should have ended just a few minutes earlier and left Zoe's fate ambiguous.
Standout Scene: I literally had shivers when the shit hit the fan towards the end of episode one and the crew of Artemis Station realised that they were being left to look after themselves to prevent infection of the virus. It has attacked the system and is starting to eat away at the crew and mass panic erupts. It's gripping. I wasn't at all prepared for the twist that Kym was using the information that Zoe was giving her in the first episode to make those events happen. She is using Zoe's foreknowledge of the near future to turn it into a reality. What a fantastic twist, one which I could only imagine the timey wimey (shudder) mind of Steven Moffat could have foreseen. Devilishly clever. And Zoe turns out to be the person on the other end of the call informing Artemis Station that they are on their own. The final scene on the station between Zoe and Kym is one of the highlights of Big Finish's catalogue and had me on the edge of my seat.
Result: 'Nobody gets a second chance in life...' This is not where I thought the Companions Chronicles would park themselves for the time being, the decision to bring them to a close with a second Doctor story quite surprising. Keeping me off guard right until the end, just as they always have done. I imagined a powerhouse first Doctor story would take this slot, probably read by William Russell or Peter Purves since they have been the strongest of the range. The second Doctor entries have been far more varied in quality, the Zoe stories especially so (Fear of the Daleks and Echoes of Grey did nothing for me whilst The Memory Cheats and The Uncertainty Principle were both superb) but they have been building a mini arc of their own for some time now (in the same vein as the Sara Kingdom and Oliver Harper arcs) based around the idea of Zoe and her inconsistent memories of the Doctor and Jamie. John Dorney scores a double whammy in Second Chances with both storylines proving to be a gripping draw; the framing narrative coming to an unforgettable climax and the space station based disaster movie utilising Zoe's skills in a riveting race against time scenario. Brilliantly he finds a way to tie up the two stories, bringing the horror of Zoe's haunting memory into the present and having some intellectual playtime with the idea. The second episode reminds me pleasingly of Peri & the Piscon Paradox, the events of the first part taking on much greater meaning (both emotionally and narratively) when they are re-considered in a different context. Second Chances is clever, personal, dramatic, emotional and imaginative...all the strengths that have come to associate with the strongest range Big Finish has ever put out. What a fantastic opportunity to put them to rest on a euphoric high. This is one of John Dorney's best ever scripts and if you know anything about the standard he regularly delivers, this is high praise indeed: 10/10