Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Goodnight Sweet Ladies written by Una McCormack and directed by Scott Handcock

What's it about: Bernice has come to the Moon of Adolin on a desperate mission. Instead, she finds an abandoned labyrinth, two confused survivors, and something ancient that needs her help.

Archaeological Adventuress: Bernice always thought she would die young, she never thought she would grow old. Orphans learn that people don't grow old, they die young. You never forget the early lessons. But here she is in the middle of life's journey and she is starting to get on. A few grey hairs, some lower back pain. Slippers and a cup of cocoa in no time. Bernice is in a ruminative mood this week. If she dies in the crash she is holding the Doctor personally responsible. Back in her comfort zone of unpeeling the mystery of a setting that is ripe with mysteries, Bernice realises that there are still things for this archaeologist to discover at the peak of her powers. It kills the scientist inside of her to say but sometimes it is better not to ask any questions. She doesn't like being pushed around and it certainly feels as though the Dalek is trying to herd her in a general direction. If it wants them to go with it then Benny will only do it on her terms. Bernice thinks fondly of the TARDIS, calling her a lovely old girl and compares her life travelling the vortex with free abandon to the slavery of a Dalek ship. Her apologies are so rare that they shouldn't be interrupted. Suddenly Bernice's dark thoughts about people who never grow old come to light when Claire reveals herself to be her mother, the woman that was stolen from Benny when she was a child and never allowed to grow old. At eight years old her mother was murdered by the Daleks, by the same kind of creature the she is now begging Benny to have pity on and help to pass on. For once Benny doesn't want to do the right thing and sacrifice this opportunity to spend some time with her mum and go after Ace...but she knows it is the right thing to do.

Oh Wicked: The first sign that Ace has been on Adelin is that Benny stumbles across explosives. It is practically a calling card.

Standout Performance: Sheila Reid is a pretty neat draw for the story and she provides some subtle menace to the proceedings as the mysterious Claire, trying to destroy all hope Benny might have of working out what is going on on Adelin.

Sparkling Dialogue: 'You can't hurt a Dalek. There's nothing left in there to hurt.'
'It's gesturing...' '...with it's gun.'
'What life could a Dalek ship have?'
'I can't leave the machine...I'm part of it.'
'You may just be a ghost but you're the ghost of my mum!'

Great Ideas: What do Gods do when there is no one left to worship them? Do they fade away too? Or do they keep on going hoping that one day somebody will remember their magnificence? For once the Daleks aren't used as a surprise appearance just because they appear, they are actually a part of the mystery and dropped into the story quite early. Una McCormack is far too savvy a writer to rely on the appearance of the Daleks to promote her work, especially when they are plastered all over the cover of this set. There is something mildly sacrilegious about the idea of a Dalek blasting away inside a cathedral, it is a potent image that I think would translate well in screen. Daleks don't take prisoners and they don't play why aren't they dead? The wreck of a Dalek ship is lying beneath the cathedral, the ship came first and the holy building was built around it. Ace was looking for a Dalek Time Ship and here it is, calcifying underground. Like the TARDIS, the Dalek ship has a death toll. Claire is the voice of the ship. The ship is frightened and alone and wants to die, it needed somebody who wasn't afraid of a challenge and Bernice was more than up to the task. Ace was sent to a forbidden world, she asked for help and the ship sent her.

Audio Landscape: Heart monitor, exploding consoles, footsteps, a crash, wind chimes, crows screaming, Dalek extermination blast, screaming Daleks, blowing up the roof, rubble, church bells tolling.

Standout Scene: A conceptualised version of Christine Summerfield brought to life by the Dalek ship, a haunting opportunity for Bernice to see the kind of woman she might have been had she grown older with her.

Result: 'Nothing this good is ever meant to happen!' Back to doing what Bernice Summerfield always did best, an isolated location, an economic number of characters, strong dialogue and a mystery to solve. It almost feels as though The Revolution never happened. The first half of Good Night Sweet Ladies is a quiet affair but that is something of a relief after the smug gaudiness of the previous story, it is a real back to basics approach with a Dalek thrown in to keep things spicy. There is a contemplative and haunting atmosphere to this story that makes it stand out from a crowd, the measured pace of the script complemented by some solemn sound design and music that helps to compel the listener to the plight of the dying Dalek ship. Lisa Bowerman is afforded some emotional opportunities in the last third that brings out the best in her performance, Bernice is afforded a touching reunion with a character that she never thought she would have the chance to talk to again. There's barely any intrusion by the Doctor and Ace either so it really does feel like old school Benny. The choice that Bernice has to make at the climax is an impossible one and those always make for the most compulsive listening. Good Night Sweet Ladies strips away all the bluster and action that plagues so many audios and focuses on characterisation, specifically Bernice who is always well served when women are putting dialogue in her mouth. I thought this was achingly sad in parts and refreshingly different in tone to anything I had heard before: 8/10

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