This is the 124th release in the Main Release range by Big Finish, and picks up on many threads that have been laid down in previous releases. Most directly, at the end of The Raincloud Man (#116), the Doctor and Charley’s relationship had hit a bit of a rocky patch, as the Doctor knows Charley is lying to him; but he doesn’t know what about, or why. Charley is determined not to tell him the truth about how she has met another of his incarnations. In the Tardis, Charley suddenly seems to fall ill. The Doctor keeps her condition as stable as he can in the Zero Room in the Tardis, and tries to find a cure for her. Meanwhile, on the Amethyst Viral Containment Station, Supervisor Fratalin is discussing with the captain of a spaceship the latest, and last delivery. Now he waits for his masters, the Viyrans.
This is a fantastic story. The Viyrans have been teased in earlier stories, most particularly in the four one-part stories that have followed a ‘virus’ thread (#94, Urgent Calls, #95, Urban Myths, #97 The Vanity Box, #102 Mission of the Viyrans). So we, the listeners have some clue as to what might be coming when the Viyrans are mentioned. But the Doctor has never heard of them; and has no idea what they might want, or be trying to achieve. In the meantime, he’s desperately trying to save Charley, but Charley has more issues than even the Doctor is aware of. And there are others, too, who are interested in the viruses abord the containment station, and the Doctor is about to find himself in a whole lot of trouble that has consequences he may not realise, until it’s too late.
This is a story with very few cast, but quite a lot of characters. That’s because Michael Maloney plays Fratalin and all his familiars (800 of them), and Nicholas Briggs plays all the parts of the Daleks. So there are only 5 people in the cast, and they are all brilliant. Colin Baker has a lot of shouting and emotional expressiveness to do in this story, and he does it brilliantly. India Fisher plays Charley well, as some consequences unfold for her. Nicholas Briggs plays the Daleks wonderfully (and Captain Etheron), and towards the end when the Dalek Time Controller is talking with the Doctor, the voice of the Dalek becomes incredibly creepy and ‘knowing’ as he works out what has happened. Jess Robinson is wonderful as Mila – tragic and broken, yet scheming to save herself. And Michael Maloney as Fratalin is terrific.
The story is complex and many-layered. The narrative unfolds at a rapid pace, and I never felt that there was a wasted moment in the whole story. There is action aplenty, as well as personal revelations for many of the characters. The Daleks are as evil and malevolent as you could ever want them to be, and the Viyrans, when they appear are magnificently distant and all-powerful. Terrific.
At the end of the second cd, there is also a short bonus feature, Part 4 of The Three Companions, with the Brigadier’s Story told by Nicholas Briggs. This is part 4 of a 12 part story (which has now been compiled and is available as a cd set in itself), which features the Brigadier, Polly and Thomas Brewster.
A four part series from Big Finish, starring Colin Baker as the Sixth Doctor, and India Fisher as Charlotte Pollard. Charlie has been struck down by a mystery virus, and Six tracks it back to its point of origin on the mysterious Amethyst Viral Containment Unit. Just what is the purpose of the Unit? Why are the Viyrans on their way? Just what do the dastardly Daleks want? And who, or what, is the mysterious Mila? This is a decent tale, with a series of satisfying twists and turns, tense cliffhangers and an intriguing ending that really leaves one guessing as to the final resolution of the Doctor/Charlie paradox. Colin Baker is excellent as Six, displaying the arrogance, energy and compassion of the character that he has made his own, once again showing how great the character could have been on the television with better backing from the BBC. India Fisher shines as Charlie, a special performance is required for this story, and that is just what she delivers. Plaudits also go to Michael Maloney, who puts in a nicely nuanced performance as the Fratalin. The Big Finish production team keep up their usual high standards, providing a great soundscape for the adventure.
Unfortunately all good things must come to an end. The pairing of Charlie Pollard and the Sixth Doctor has been excellent, providing some of the high points of the recent Big Finish output. The frisson resulting from Charlie's inability to tell Six the truth about her background, and Six's slight distrust of her has provided one of the best Doctor/companion relationships in the series. However, though it is what has made the relationship great, it has also put a time limit on the pairing, and it is now sadly time for things to come to head. This is the first of a three story arc that will resolve the situation, and left me absolutely desperate to listen to the next story, Paper Cuts. This story is self contained enough to be listened to in isolation, but you will get a lot more from it if you've listened to some of the previous Six/Charlie or even Eight/Charlie adventures first.
This release also contains the fifth part of `The Three Companions', a twelve part story spread across a years' worth of Big Finish releases, featuring Polly, The Brigadier and Thomas Brewster. This is turning into an intriguing story, and again I eagerly await the next instalment.
Somehow I'd been making poor choices with my Big Finish purchases which put me off the range for some time, this is the title which restored my faith in the publishers efforts.
The production quality is absolutely superb, as is the performances by all involved. This is an adrenaline ride from start to finish which is helped along by a wonderful score.
This is also the first time I've enjoyed a 6th/Charley pairing, my favourite Doctor and assistant should have been a wonderful mesh but this was the first time that I didn't find the Doctors distrust of Charley interfering with the dynamic.
on 9 November 2009
As the previous reviewer has said, this story really serves as an intro to the final three stories to feature longtime companion Charley Pollard, the feisty 'Edwardian adventuress' played by the incomparable India Fisher. As such I didn't find it too gripping, despite the presence of the Daleks.
Fisher plays dual roles in this story but for the purposes of the plot it's not easy to ascertain when she's herself and when she's not! Colin Baker though continues to excel on audio as his Doctor shows a softer more likeable side as well the steely edge that the BBC scriptwriters in the mid-1980s never got quite right. The Sixth Doctor (or 'old Sixie' as Baker refers to him nowadays) has by now realised that there is something duplicitous about his travelling companion, but still has no idea what that is. As the tension escalates the Daleks exacerbate the situation with their pursuit of the mysterious 'Patient Zero', and there is consequently plenty of action and intrigue. Unfortunately, I found it as a whole to be a fairly generic story, and despite some fine performances from the actors I thought it was pretty forgettable. Hopefully the next two stories will redress the balance as decision time looms for Charley, and hopefully Colin Baker will have more to get his teeth into as well.