Thursday, 15 December 2016

Absolute Power written and directed by Jamie Anderson

What's it about: Two thousand years ago, all civilisation on the planet Teymah was wiped out in an AELE – an Anomalous Extinction Level Event. Now, the galactic entrepreneur Lyam Yce hopes, at last, to learn the reason why the ancient Teymahrians went extinct – by funding a huge archaeological dig. While the Doctor probes a strange sphere found by Yce's diggers, his companion, former Bletchley Park cryptographer Constance Clarke, agrees to help translate symbols written in the lost ancient language of the Teymahrians. And soon, they'll learn that ancient Teymah's secrets were best left buried deep beneath its shifting sands...

Softer Six: Despite being over 900 years old he does still have his occasional childish moments and when a Brudvahkian yak wound up spitting on Constance he couldn't help but have a good giggle. The Doctor has been working on a mobile device that is an extension of the TARDIS' telepathic circuitry for centuries. It allows you to feel the empathy for another but he cannot recall why he built it now for love nor money, it was a few regenerations back. The Doctor and his companion arriving can go one of two ways; he's accused of being a stranger and suspected of whatever trouble is going on or he is mistaken for somebody else and 'expected.' I'm glad this is the latter because it avoids all the clichés of the more familiar former approach. It's precisely why Russell T. Davies invented the psychic paper, to avoid the predictability of the Doctor having the finger pointed at him as soon as he arrives. Listen to the Doctor and Constance listening to the Yce propaganda video, its a small but vital demonstration of their easy chemistry at this point in their travels. Apparently he has as acccute a sense of directional hearing as a bat with Sat Nav. Always been one for modesty, Sixie. He enjoys a little corporate hospitality every now and again. Colin Baker is always at his best when he gets to raise up on his moral high horse. The destruction of Teymahrian civilisation, how the Ninexie representative worked his way through one host after another and subsequently wiped out their race in doing so, appals him. Tens of millions of them destroyed to ensure the procreation of a scientifically advanced species. Can you imagine his anger?

Constant Companion: When she's angry with him it is most definitely Mrs Clarke. She's admits she doesn't know the Doctor all that well and they have only been travelling together for a little time. She's certainly not been with him long enough so the wonder of the universe is lost on her. She steps out of the TARDIS in awe, not simply declaring not a dreary old planet. There were enough eighties companions like that on the TV. An artefact with an undiscovered language, exactly the sort of thing that a cryptographer from the Second World War can get her teeth into. As a wartime gal, Mrs Clarke was used to cutbacks and finds the set on Teymah more than a little extravagant. I love that the Doctor speaks very highly of Mrs Clarke's abilities, professionally. She really should have paid more attention to that escapology course at Blecthley...but then she had no idea she was going to be roaming around the universe and having mad adventures. She cannot handle male attention and shies away from it dramatically. Maybe she doesn't know him that well but Constance has absolute faith that he will turn up and save her when she is in a spot. 

Sparkling Dialogue: 'This is genocide on the most obscene and monstrous scale!'

Great Ideas: Emotional trauma is what claiming compensation is all about so it does surprise that that is taken to the nth degree in the future. Landing on the site of an AELE - an Anomalous Extinction Level Event - is a nice, juicy dramatic idea. You can bet your bottom dollar that we are going to find out by the end of the story. Doctor Who loves a mystery and this is one that is ready to be solved. When did any good come of poking around in mysterious spheres that are discovered on alien worlds? When will people learn to leave these sorts of things alone? I love how Anderson runs through some of the SF clichés when a character suggests what the sphere might be. There have been a fair few spheres in Doctor Who before and it's nice to see he is aware of that. After The Impossible Planet, Under the Lake and now Absolute Power I'm starting to wonder if the TARDIS wasn't fitted with a comprehensive list of languages of the universe to translate. Mind you, after all the planets that they have visited were the translation circuits have worked, this is just an aberration. An ancient God that derived his power from a special cylindrical object? You should never listen to rumour but sometimes it can't be helped. Electromitosis is the generation of electricity in order to reproduce. 3000 years ago a member of the Ninexie landed in a colonisation pod landed on Teymah. An attempted invasion and interstellar war led to led to a dramatic increase in immigration, spreading their reach into the universe. Their method of colonisation requires a certain level of technological sophistication and so he had to use the Teymahrians as hosts to advance their scientific development. Irresponsible but a sound survival instinct. The Genocide Squad sound like a terrifying prospect.

Audio Landscape: Shuttles landing and flying overhead, the Doctor working on a fizzing console in the TARDIS, the eerie atmosphere on Teymah, breaking into the sphere, power leaping from the sphere, a dust storm whipping up, a busy an bustling hospitality, the Doctor scribbling, a beeping bomb, a ship punching off into space, water rushing, laser fire,

Musical Cues: I immediately had the sense that the music was being composed by somebody different, it had a freshness and vibrancy to it that screamed of an original voice to Big Finish. That was a smart move on Jamie Anderson, to give his first main range adventure a unique style. The dramatic moments have a real sense of pace of the mystery of the planet that was abandoned is captured with haunting beauty. It's quite melodramatic in parts but to me that feels very traditionally Doctor Who. Too many of the main range scores have tried to feel like movie soundtracks in the last few years, forgetting that the show wasn't epically emotional all the time.

Isn't it Odd: A fellow reviewer sparked a moment of anger in me recently and it made me think about the whole nature of Doctor Who and what different people seek from it. His reviews are ones that I admire and follow religiously. We don't always agree but considering we are different people with different tastes that is only to be expected. His reviews are briefer than mine, more incisive, more decisive and generally far more intelligently written. However his sense of disbelief that somebody could look at the main range in the current state it is in and find it not only enjoyable, but exactly the sort of Doctor Who they seek out, was palpable. It stems from Big Finish rather smugly placing their positive reviews on their website to encourage others to buy them. As a marketing device, it's gold. These are word that have been written in praise of these stories and so to wave a flag towards them whilst trying to sell them is a smart move. However if you read all the review quotes that have been placed at the stop of all the stories you'll could possibly be under the impression that every one of them is an instant classic, with no quality variance whatsoever. My problem with the reviewers reaction to this is the incredulity that a cliché ridden nostalgia fuelled range might what somebody could hold up and champion. And why not? There's plenty about the main range that I am not satisfied with but I completely understand why somebody might listen to Order of the Daleks and think it ticks all the right boxes and tickles their fancies. It's horses for courses. We all like different things. I'm absolutely serious when I give The Chase and Time and the Rani 9/10 because they both give such pleasure. The series is the same, I didn't get a great deal of enjoyment overall from the Matt Smith era...but I'm finding the Capaldi era much more to my tastes. Interest is such relative thing, a personal thing. And that's what I've always promoted on this blog. My personal interest. I'm not speaking for fandom but my only personal reaction to the show. It's why I'm attacked occasionally with some scathing comments, because people have such different tastes to mine. My point is...let's enjoy what we enjoy (or not) and leave everybody else to their devices. Doctor Who is a personal love, and we all get different things from it. If am rewarded with innovation and intelligence there will be somebody else berating the fact that the story isn't Doctor Whoey enough for them. It's the name of the game. If you like the main range right now, good for you. It's fine to express personal dissatisfaction, but  questioning why others get enjoyment from something doesn't sit too well with me.

Florrie was played so sickly sweet that I had her pegged as being up to no good from the start. There's a little too much technobabble for me in the last episode.

Result: That was...really rather fun. I don't think there was one part of this story that wasn't a Doctor Who cliché of some sort or another; the mystery of an abandoned civilisation, a strange sphere found in the ruins, an unknown language, possession,  centuries old war having consequences on the present, genocidal revenge, a society unnaturally advanced. However how the story was presented, so pacy and dramatic, they all get a new lease of life. It's like Doctor Who tropes being stuffed into a firework, lighting the fuse and watching them explode in the sky in colourful patterns. I was carried along by the thrust of the story, the energy of the actors and Jamie Anderson's superb understanding of how to get the most drama out of any given situation. He really is quite a find this year. The regulars carry a lot of the story and I'm pleased to reveal that the sixth Doctor and Constance continue to impress. Baker and Raison work together very well, although I have to say I am excited for the shake up in the next release, simply for the amusing culture clash I think it will bring. The use of a fresh musician worked very well for me too. Music is very important to an audio adventure, sound is all they have to generate an atmosphere and Joe Kraemer is a fresh and original new talent to the range. I was carried lightly through the more traditional moments ideas thanks to Kraemer's exciting and mysterious score. If the main range was to bubble along popping out conventional stories, I would much rather it was something as snap crackle and pop as Absolute Power rather than some of the examples we have suffered in the past couple of years. Is this the sort of story that I think the main range should be using as a template for future adventures? Dramatically, yes. Do I want a little more innovation and originality in my Doctor Who? Yes too. Anderson clearly has a fine understanding of the show and of audio drama in general. I think he's going to write and direct an absolute classic at some point. Absolute Power isn't that. But it will colourfully kiss you all over with Doctor Whoness and when it's as effortlessly enjoyable as this it's best to just lie back and enjoy it. Take of that metaphor what you will: 7/10

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

wow, I thought you'd stopped reviewing.
I know which reviewer you are talking about, after your page, he's the one I mostly follow because I rather tend to agree with him
I think he thinks the main range has lost it's sparkle and can't innovate any more, well everyone is entitled to their opinions :)