Friday, 16 October 2015

Doom Coalition: The Eleven written by Matt Fitton and directed by Ken Bentley

What's it about: The Eleven. A Time Lord whose previous personalities live on in his mind: arguing, plotting, jostling for supremacy... He is also Gallifrey's most dangerous criminal. And he has escaped. The Doctor is recalled to his home world to lead the hunt. As they search the Capitol's corridors of power, the Academy halls and the cells of the highest security penitentiary, Liv realises the worst monsters may be among the Doctor's own people. For inside his fractured mind, the Eleven has a plan. And its deadly consequences will extend through space and time...

Physician, Heal Thyself: It would appear that the Doctor and Liv have been up to all kinds of scrapes since we last left them in the Dark Eyes box set, we catch up with them here in desperate peril and attempting to extradite themselves from harm. They have a natural chemistry which is enjoyable to listen to, something that was cultivated in the latter half of the Dark Eyes series. Arriving on Gallifrey usually begins with the Chancellery Guard pointing guns at him and it all goes downhill from there. Funny that the Doctor should be so facetious about Gallifrey and yet before the end of his next incarnation he would be fighting desperately to save it...and in his three incarnations after that he would be desperate to set foot on his home world again. He likes to think the best of people until he is proven wrong. Liv thought that she had met all the insane Time Lords (she has, after all, spent a great deal of time with the Master) but she can see that the Eleven is in a league of his own. The Eleven has always been fascinated by the Doctor's story and that is why his ultimate aim is to steal a TARDIS and escape from Gallifrey. But where the Doctor sought to learn about the universe, to observe, God only knows what damage the Eleven will do to the threads the bind the universe together. The 'one with the hat and the umbrella' wont let the eighth Doctor live with himself knowing that the Eleven is out there and he let him slip through his fingers. The Doctor has a mission, to find and stop this madman. It's certainly a more substantial link between the stories than the first Dark Eyes box set had.

Liv Chenka: Liv becomes the most useful person on Gallifrey when it turns out that she is the only person who can see the Eleven. Suddenly those pompous Time Lords start taking her seriously and stop patronising her. Nicola Walker has a very natural delivery that makes her perhaps the most down-to-earth audio companion we have ever had. She brings a genuine earthiness and realism to the part that is very refreshing. Travelling with the Doctor opens your eyes to the universe. Being touched by the Doctor changes your life forever, all of the Doctor's companions have been enlightened by the experience and most of them have gone on to fulfil their potential, becoming warriors, leaders, defenders of worlds. It's a little too sedate on Gallifrey for Liv, she's with the Doctor every time.

Standout Performance: Mark Bonnar as the Eleven. One of the most terrifying nasties to appear on audio for some time. He manages to make each incarnation that screams in his head a separate entity, especially number eight. I was bowled over by his efforts.

Sparkling Dialogue: 'The Eleven need you but we don't need your tongue...'

Great Ideas: The opening sequence grabs you by the throat immediately with Sylvester McCoy making an uncredited appearance and delivering one of his most impressive turns, gnashing his teeth and revealing his hand in the capture and punishment of the Eleven. He admits that in this regeneration he sees his role as mopping up after the mess that corrupt individuals leave behind. What an astonishing notion the Eleven is, a Time Lord who's entire eleven lives remain active in his mind and vying for dominance. I have seen a similar sort of thing played out in a much more playful fashion in Lawrence Miles' Interference and Lloyd Rose's Camera Obscura (although that was with a psychologically disturbed medium) but that doesn't stop this from being an insanely dramatic device that brings forth one of the most memorable and disturbing villains we have seen on audio in a long, long time. There is a definite Clarice/Lecteur feeling to the initial meeting between Kiani and the Eleven and you cannot help but feel that his is a dangerous presence, even on audio. Perhaps it is the music or the build up to his appearance or perhaps it is Mark Bonnar's stunning performance that has the ability to send shivers down your spine. He's responsible for eviscerating armies, incinerating worlds and Kiani is trying to understand his motive for his behaviour. His eighth incarnation was the aberration, the break in psychosis - what was the reason that one of his selves was so out of place with the others? This is such a fascinating idea you have to wonder why nobody has explored the concept before. The President is not on Gallifrey at the moment, Romana is off world securing relationships with over temporal powers. In her first term of office, Romana made many sweeping changes and brought Gallifrey in to a New Age. One which allowed aliens to study on Gallifrey. Before he had shown any signs of criminal tendencies, the Eleven was invited onto the High Council which gives him the right to invoke the highest office whilst the President is away. If that happens, I dread to think what the consequences for Gallifrey might be. Absolute chaos reigns once the Eleven is free, revealing just what a dangerous influence he can be. One man can destroy the equilibrium of an entire world and when that world is as powerful as Gallifrey then problems lie ahead. The Time Lords have devices that can tear a living mind from its brain thought by thought, they can rip whole worlds from the Web of Time or excise a single soul and the universe wont remember either one existing. Because we have been able to get so accustomed to Gallifrey and it's people I think we forget just how powerful this race is. They aren't just ancient, dusty senators, they're Lords of Time. The purpose of the Regeneration Codex is shrouded in mystery like so many Gallifreyan artefacts...but I am sure we will discover it's purpose before long.

Result: Gallifrey and I have had an on/off relationship over the years. When introduced in The War Games I thought it was the most terrifying place that the Doctor could possibly visit and The Deadly Assassin re-invented the world as a gripping, political nightmare. But stories such as The Three Doctors and Arc of Infinity revealed how badly the Doctor's home planet could be represented if the writers imaginations and the budget failed to rouse to the occasion. The Gallifrey audio series yo-yoed between offering stunning political drama and tedious parallel world tedium and the novels took it upon themselves to blow it up long before the television series. It's been a chequered history. Matt Fitton proves without doubt that there is definitely room for fascinating stories still to be told on this world as long as the ideas have weight and the characterisation grips you from the outset. The Eleven is a superb Gallifrey based tale that completely restores my faith in setting further adventures here, which surely is a must given the appetite whetting upcoming War Doctor series and given the eighth Doctor's adventures are going to segue into the Time War. What we have here is Paul McGann fired up at the beginning of a brand new epic, paired with a companion that brings out the best in him and butting heads with a villain who dazzles with interest and is brought to life by an actor who imbues the part with serious menace. The Eleven is a man who is literally tearing himself apart from inside, whose hate and rage comes from an insane psychological instability of eleven voices talking all at once. He's an astonishing character and manages to wreck havoc on Gallifrey in a relatively small time. Let loose in the universe, the Doctor is on his tail and now the chase is on with have our ongoing narrative for all four stories. I guess that is the only complaint I can make about The Eleven, is that by it's very nature of being a 16-part story this instalment is all set up with no hint of a satisfying conclusion in sight. The story just sort of ends. It's a piece of the puzzle but a what a stellar piece it is, gripping throughout and featuring extremely vivid performances: 9/10

1 comment:

dark said...

Well I'll admit I really! enjoyed this one. The Eleven was a villain who genuinely and completely scared me, and sinse I was making chilly at the time that is saying something. I don't know what it was, the unpredictability, the fact that the different encarnations were almost like a twisted version of the Doctor, from the thuggish and psychotic six to the swarve number four, or whether it was that I really! didn't know where the Eleven would go, who around him would live or die.
I'm really hoping his plot in the next 16 stories keeps up with him.

Liv is one of these companions I tend to really enjoy while she's there, but unfortunately forget about. Maybe it's because compared to most others she doesn't run on pyrotecnics or quirks, she's just a compitant and somewhat scarred veteran who has a relaxed friendship with number eight, indeed compared with his shenanigans with such emotional characters as Lucy, Charley and C'riz, not to mention Miss Molly Tardibox o'sullivan, I suspect someone as relatively calm as Liv is a nice change :D. Indeed your summation of her as down to earth I totally agree with.

I also absolutely loved the way Gallifrey was portrayed in this story. To be honest this is the first time I've ever really got the sense of Galifrey as an actual place with students and halls of residence and prisons and normal stuff like that. IN the Galifrey miniseries it almost felt like the entirety of Galifrey was just the capital, it would be like someone trying to get an idea of life in the Usa by watching the West wing. However seeing timelord students, timelord police officers and such other relaxed people, I actually got the sense this was a real planet wwere people had lives, albeit rather incomprehensible and somewhat hide bound lives at times.

Beware! Here doth come spoilage!

My only real issue with this one was Liv. The hole Hostage thing really disappointed me, sinse it so much feels like "Well you get to live because your a main character", and sinse one of the things that made the Eleven so scary to me was the fact that he was! someone who killed on a whim (something which was a shock after watching Moffat who were nobody dies). I actually wish there had been a better reason to keep liv with him, for example maybe requiring a human eye for the retinal scanner ala Evelyn in Appocalypse element. Also sorry but really the mental image of the eleven with Liv on a chain just is wrong on so many levels :D.

Then again, I loved the fact Kiani died. She was setup so much as a substitute companion, indeed I wondered if she'd be with the doctor (or the eleven), throughout the hole box set, and then to have the eleven first toy with, then kill her was entirely unexpected, and I love having my expectations of who will live shaken in this way.

I do wish the Mcguffiny mcguffinax had not been so blatantly introduced, but then again this is Doctor who, and there did have to be a reason for the Eleven's long term plans, still it might have been nice if the structure wasn't quite as blatant, I am also suspecting that something related to regeneration itself is in the offing given the eleven's particular problem, and the fact that the Eleven's number eight is so singular compared to the other ten.

So, definitely looking forward to seeing where this will go. With the time war stuff on the way I'm really pleased Bf could come up with something so inventive, particularly for the Eighth doctor.