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The Next Life
on 12 July 2015
This is the 64th release in the Main Range issued by Big Finish. The story features the Eighth Doctor with his companions Charley (Charlotte Pollard) and C’rizz. Since the 52nd story (Scherzo), the Doctor and Charley have been trapped in the Divergent Universe, where they met C’rizz, a Eutermesan from the planet Bortresoye, who is now travelling with them.
The story wraps up the arc which began in the story previous to Scherzo, Zagreus. That story was a bit of an epic tale, which ran to nearly 4 hours, and which featured the Doctor struggling to resolve an issue with anti-time. Now, in The Next Life, that longer story arc, as well as the Divergent Universe story arc stands to be resolved in another epic tale, which runs to just over 3 hours.
The Tardis, seemingly out of control lands on an unknown planet. Charley meets up with her mother; but how can that be, as her mother is in the other Universe, and surely long-since dead? C’rizz awakens on the morning of his marriage to L’da; but how can that be, when he knows that L’da is dead, because he killed her? And the Doctor washes up on the beach, where he meets a woman named Perfection, whose husband Daqar Keep is bringing a mission to the local people. But here too danger threatens, as a young girl is missing, and who better to blame for her fate than the stranger who has just appeared?
This story is ultimately rather disappointing. Some of the fault of the experience lies in the characterisations. Charley is written here as a spoiled brat, who spends her time squabbling with the other spoiled brat, C’rizz. They fight, they sulk, they leave each other behind. The rest of the time, each of them is reminiscing, or reliving past experiences, catching up with people from their pasts. The Doctor seems to be just along for the ride for much of the story, and remains quite unengaged in what’s going on. There are silly jokes and awful puns aplenty from all these characters. None of this is very entertaining, enlightening or enlivening for the listener.
The other cast members try their best. Paul Darrow is, I thought, really good as Guidance; his ‘alien’ nature is well shown in the nuances of his voice and tone. In this, he does a much better job than Conrad Westmaas as C’rizz. Stephane Cornicard is brilliantly malevolent as Daqar Keep, and Anneke Wills does a valiant job in her rather unrewarding role as Lady Louisa Pollard. Don Warrington does his best with the rather uninspired script in his role as Rassilon. The rest of the cast were fairly unmemorable for me, including Daphne Ashbrook as Perfection, who seemed awfully miscast in this role.
Leaving that aside, and thinking about whether the story itself works as the end of the arc which started with Zagreus, and the arc within that of the Divergent Universe, the answer is, sadly not really. The story resolution was rather humdrum, given all the build-up over the last stories to it, and I was left wondering at the end, why we all even bothered. The Doctor himself, who you would think was the person most affected by all that had happened to him since Zagreus, seemed remarkably relaxed about it all, spending the last part of his time in the Divergent Universe telling Charley and C’rizz that they better behave themselves from now on, or they’d be sent to their rooms without supper (or something like that, I stopped listening somewhere along the way). The best bit of this story is the part right at the end, where things start to get more interesting in line for the next story, Terror Firma. Given the epic scale of the whole saga, and the 3 hour story which concludes it, it seems a shame also that we don’t even get any extras on the cd – no cast interviews, no inside stories, no ‘making of’. All rather a missed opportunity, I thought.