Saturday, 27 July 2019

Relative Time written by Matt Fitton and directed by Ken Bentley

What’s it About: Disaster strikes inside the Time Vortex, and the Fifth Doctor is thrown together with someone from his future… someone claiming to be his daughter! Kleptomaniac Time Lord, the Nine, believes it’s his chance to steal something huge. But Jenny just wants her dad to believe in her.

Fair Fellow: There’s some contention amongst fans of Big Finish debating whether Peter Davison sounds more authoritative and in control of the part as an older man or whether he was at his best on the TV in his thirties. I am very much in the former category, there is something wonderfully gruff and temperamental about him these days, whilst still having that energy and lust for adventure that he always had. He’s a much more rounded character and one that is far less likely to be pushed around. Of course, there is bound to be a paternal element to a story that features Davison’s real-life daughter opposite him and this is one occasion where I cannot separate Davison the actor from Davison the father and brilliantly it is the one story where that works very much in the story’s favour. When he starts ranting that she is reckless, selfish and thoughtless you can really hear a father berating his child. I’m sure Georgia has never done anything that caused Davison to says such things, mind. The effect is really fun, especially when you know the connection. The Doctor is pleased to hear that things in the future won’t be so different from now, especially all the corridors and running. Some people like clean lines and neatness, a practically – that’s the Doctor responding to how retro the TARDIS looks. He doesn’t need flash bang gadgetry to get around the universe. The Doctor is willing to initiate Time Ram on the Nine, he’s suicidally determined to bring him down. When it comes to it, every father is happy to show off in front of his daughter.

Hello Dad: Jenny was a hugely popular character from a not very popular story. I’m not sure how they managed that. The Doctor’s Daughter often comes bottom of series four polls and yet I only really hear nice things said about Jenny’s relationship with the Doctor and Donna and general pleasing things about what Georgia Tennant brought to the role. I thought she was just fine, if a little one note, but I’m pleased to say that she comes across as far more likeable and fully characterised on audio. She’s delighted to see the Doctor again, and manages to spot him (and his TARDIS) almost instantly. Because she is banging on about knowing him, dying and not changing her face the Doctor wonders if she has escaped from somewhere. To which she explains that yes, she escapes from all kinds of places. He cannot understand how Jenny can exist because he doesn’t just give away his genetic material to just anyone. What are the chances of her bumping into two Time Lords in such quick succession? Jenny, a technological product of the Doctor, manages to talk to talk to the TARDIS, technology that is biologically slaved to him. She has instinctive TARDIS control because she takes after her dad.

The Nine: He tries the Tenth Doctor approach of making a grandiose speech of being a Time Lord and that everybody should be terribly impressed because of it and then ruins all of that by being, well, a bit rubbish. He’s still a lot more fun than the Eleven as far as I am concerned, deliberately annoying and failing far more than he succeeds. Less a villain, more a meddler. The Doctor and Nine don’t socialise, and he sounds pretty put out by that.

Standout Performance: You know when you recognise a voice immediately but cannot find the face in your memory that it fits. A little digging later and Thana, the deliriously enjoyable spaceship captain, turns out to be none other than Ronni Acona. Her voice should be recognisable to many who watched comedy in the mid-2000s, aping all manner of celebrities in Alistair McGowan’s Big Impression. This is a standout turn, camp as Christmas and full of glorious bluster.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Do you know ho that sounds to me? Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah…you can’t have nice things.’

Great Ideas: There are fragments of temporal energy exploded all over the place. Timelines, time tracks, chronoplasm. They are caught inside it and one false move and it’s boom for them and potentially the universe. It’s nice to hear the mention of Vortisaurs, which takes me right back to the early days of Big Finish.

Isn’t it Odd: Jenny sounds a bit meh when she is talking about the plot. When the characters aren’t showing any great concern about what is going on it is best to sit back and enjoy and the interaction between the characters. I’m sure all these pockets of time are significant to the greater story but there isn’t the sort of cohesive momentum of plot through this set that you usually see in Big Finish. The technobabble is being dished out as a backdrop to find an excuse to celebrate various Big Fish ranges. I’m sure come the final instalment of this ‘epic’ that we’ll discover there was important information seeded in each story and in some magic spell of timey wimey it brings together all these characters and situations…but that hardly feels like the point of the set at all. It’s six stories featuring great characters who have had an extended life on audio.

Standout Scene: ‘I would be proud you know Jenny. I hope it is true. I’d be honoured to call you my daughter.’

Result: ‘Not interrupting Daddy/daughter time, am I?’ An entire hour giving the father/daughter team of Peter Davison and Georgia Moffat a chance to act against one another. This is such a cute idea and obviously too much for a ‘we’ll try anything’ company like Big Finish to resist. Matt Fitton has a prolific number of Doctor Who stories under his belt at this point and so his inclusion in this set was a must. He’s not my favourite writer, but he’s extremely capable and generally produces scripts that are at the very least entertaining but can occasionally fall into the excellent territory. I find he writes characters far more intricately than he does plot and that is very much the case with Relative Time. It features all manner of temporal shenanigans that all add up to nought in the end when what you are here for and the highlight of the story is the Doctor/Jenny and the villanous interaction, all of each are packed with lovely moments. I’m not madly invested in Jenny and I’m not sure how much I buy her emotional connection to the Doctor and so there was a feeling that I was being exploited here, much like in The Doctor’s Daughter. Davison is so good that he makes their scenes count, just as David Tennant was in her debut. The Nine is a delight as usual, a meddlesome villain who barely deserves the description but manages to be enjoyably sarcastic. This is weakest of the set so far but is more than listenable; it doesn’t have the dramatic tone of the first, the cleverly constructed plot of the second or the heart-breaking interaction of the third. This is probably more representative of what Big Finish releases on a month by month basis than those first three though; fun, entertaining, disposable. Professionally produced fluff: 6/10

1 comment:

Tony said...

I'd honestly love it if they ended up traveling together. Goes along with the boxset's view towards paradox. Who cares if it contradicts continuity? Let's just have some fun. The timeline will work itself out.