Sunday, 30 October 2016

Judoon in Chains written by Simon Barnard and Paul Morris and directed by Barnaby Edwards

What's it about: The Sixth Doctor is no stranger to courtroom drama, but faces a very different challenge when he prepares to defend a most unusual Judoon. After an environmental clearance mission goes wrong, Captain Kybo of the Nineteenth Judoon Interplanetary Force is stranded in Victorian England, bound in chains, an exhibit in a circus show. But he has allies: Eliza Jenkins – known to audiences as ‘Thomasina Thumb’ – and the larger-than-life ‘clown’ in the colourful coat. Uncovering a trail of injustice and corruption, the Doctor and Kybo soon find themselves on trial for their lives…

Softer Six: A showman by the look of him, he proudly declares himself Tybo's defence council and you can almost hear him clutching his lapels arrogantly at the judge. People may not think much of Trial of a Time Lord (I don't think they're right but that's probably my issue, not theirs) but it certainly bought something passionate out in Colin Baker. An actor and a character who was on trial for his life. The natural theatrical nature of Baker meant that it was a very comfortable setting for him and that puts us in very good stead for Judoon in Chains. Meeting a theatrical impresario (although one with scarce as much flair as Henry Gordon Jago) makes me think that Colin Baker's Doctor would fit that sort of role; brash, arrogant and colourful. He is offered the job of 'Interpretor cum Clown', the Very Colourful Voice of Kybo because he understands the Judoon language. He's not over fond of courtrooms but he'll overlook that for the greater good. Hearing the sixth Doctor talking about the Shadow Proclamation gave me chills.

Gruff Officer: The Doctor assumes the worst of the Judoon and is surprised to find he has wound up with one with manners. In fact Kybo is unique in many respects. Being treated as a sideshow freak, Kybo the Rhinoceros Man is a massive indignity to him but he bears the insult well. It's worth the admission price just to hear a Judoon quoting Burns and admitting that he loves something as artistic as poetry because there is nothing comparable in his society. His own poetry is both very funny and very sweet, an ode to a beautifully craggy and horny Judoon. The story of how Kybo discovered the concept of beauty is delightful, his mind opening for the first time. He talks of crying for the first time.

Standout Performance: I would recognise Dr Eleanor Harcourt from Bang Bang a Boom a mile away. Kudos to Nicholas Briggs, a much undervalued performer in the Doctor Who world who has given a vast array of monster voices over the past decade. Half of the battle is the voice with the monsters and he's been consisting innovative in providing chilling, memorable examples. Here he gets the opportunity to do some serious acting once more, like he does with the best of his Dalek stories (the opportunities that the television story Dalek gave him were extraordinary, really showing his talent). Kybo is such a fun character and I was extremely drawn to him. For Briggs to get his voice so gruff and yet gentle must have been painful on the old larynx. A massive round of applause for the torture on his vocal chords, it was worth it.

Sparkling Dialogue: 'This planet is a present for my daughters 16th birthday!' How the other half live...
'I said we should have hired Ogrons...'
The only story to dare to get away with the expression 'horny headed friend.'
'You win some, you lose some. Hey ho.'
'A Judoon commune on the Moon?'

Great Ideas: Trust the Judoon to be as subtle as ever and moving the courtroom to somewhere more convenient. I love the framing device that this story hangs upon, setting up a courtroom drama and heading in to listen to the actual events informs us that something bad is going to happen. Morris and Barnard do not inform us of exactly what which adds suspense to the tale. Judoonese is the language of the Judoon. The Doctor considers the Judoon a rather simple species with exceptionally small brains that you could pick up in a teaspoon, hence their uninflected monosyllabic tongue. A sentience with no physical form, existing in all nature. They can be seen with humanoid eyes unless they emerge in one dimensional form. In a surface of a river or in the reflection of a pocket watch. The Iyesha sent out a distress call when Kybo's ship was attacked, saving his life twice over. They needed to communicate their plight to the rest of the universe, using Kybo as a whistleblower. They are the reason his mind has been opened and his artistic side has flourished. The universe has a population problem, planets exhaust their natural resources and then they die and the populace moves on to other worlds. That's where Genesis Corp come in, they make planets habitable for their clients. They can terraform in any way you like...for the right price. Everywhere has some kind of life but it isn't always the kind of life that humanoid races might recognise.

Audio Landscape: The thunderous footsteps of the Judoon, a shocked and entertained courtroom audience, Judoon assimilating language, thunder, lightning, rain, a very blowy hull breach, footsteps on a gantry, explosion, birds in a forest, a fairground jingle,

Isn't it Odd: Isn't there some kind of ruling that forbids a participant in the crime to stand for defence council of the accused?

Standout Scene: The Doctor is baffled how the Genesis Corp continued with their plans to terraform Iyesha when the intelligent species sent out a cry for help to stop. He's not shy of calling that behaviour murder and points the finger at the man accountable. Pleasingly he exposes him and his blasé attitude towards like to the shareholders effectively bringing him down. Justice wins just how it should be.

Result: Immediately this feels like a more natural fit for a classic Doctor than the Weeping Angels did for Peter Davison's Doctor. Fallen Angels felt like a classic Doctor in a NuWho adventure whereas the Judoon are just the sort of clod-hopping, unsubtle races that classic Who would use to hold a mirror up to humanity. I can imagine them stomping about an eighties adventure (think the Sontarans in The Two Doctors or the Cybermen in any eighties story) and the trial setting makes this uniquely suited to the sixth Doctor. As a result this crosses the bridge between old and new far more smoothly. What strikes me as odd is how I perceived this audio was going to be, a piece of fluff featuring an awful lot of legal waffle and posturing. There is a little of that but this is actually a very sweet and personable character drama too, concentrating on the relationship between two equally gruff protagonists (the Doctor and Kybo). It's fascinating to watch them interact, a boisterous Time Lord and a crotchety Judoon and watching as they practically cancel out each others combative traits and wind up exploring a much more gentle and respectful relationship. By the end of the story I rather fancied Kybo hopping in the TARDIS with the Doctor and doing a round of the galaxy but I guess that could never work because contemporary Earth stories would mean he would have to wear some kind of holographic filter at all times. Just like The End of the Line for the sixth Doctor's Last Adventure box set, Morris and Barnard understand precisely what makes the sixth Doctor tick and characterise him charmingly. The plot starts well and promises a great deal of drama but it doesn't really follow through on that promise (very like Trial of a Time Lord then) but it does hold up several tasty ideas along the way. I especially like the moral tone the story takes at the climax, the Doctor taking on a profit making corporation that is terraforming without ethics. Judoon in Chains is a fresh look at a two dimensional foe and pleasing because of it. It's not what I expected and is all the more enjoyable for it: 8/10

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