Sunday, April 19, 2015

Return to the Daleks - Terror Firma

And now we also return to the Eighth Doctor as he returns to the proper universe, and Big Finish do the only thing you can do to welcome back the Doctor. The same thing RTD did. You bring out the Daleks.

They have also decided to address a rather large elephant that has been in the room for seventeen years. Just how exactly are the Daleks about after Skaro was blown up in Remembrance of the Daleks?

The answer is the rather obvious Davros, who is always good for a Dalek resurrection. Seems he went to Earth and got bioengineering again. Which is nice. It also means that we have human Daleks again. However, the insane Emperor (who we'll get to in a minute) did this (or will do this) to resurrect the Daleks after the Time War as revealed in The Parting of Ways, and the Doctor was suitably shocked at this. So we have another conflict between Big Finish and New Who after the fate of Rassilon in The Next Life.

It introduces another one before the serial is finished too. That of Davros. We all know he returns to fight the Tenth Doctor as himself, not a completely transformed Emperor. How does that happen? Big Finish have said Parting of Ways Emperor isn't him anyway. Guess that's something to look forward to.

The funny thing is, thematically I thought this felt very New Who. I figured it debuted after Rose. After all, once Charley and C'rizz leave, the Eighth Doctor is more or less removed from the monthly range and given his own series that closer matches New Who's structure. This is still broken up into four episodes like Classic Who, but the broken Doctor struggling with a 'kill or don't kill' decision feels something that New would do, that Classic might not. Or at least the fact he has to turn to his companion for a bit of advice at least does.

The fact Terror Firma only came out three months after Rose debuted is a bit of a shock, if I'm honest. It feels like it took a lot of notes from how RTD restyled the programme, but three months isn't enough time to turn around a script. Though they could well have had a preview, it's still pretty quick, especially as a lot of the pieces in play in have been building for a while.

The story itself does the rather brilliant manoeuvre of introducing us to some forgotten companions. There aren't many Doctor's you can get away with that with. Seven, Eight and Nine are about it. Maybe Six considering how many he's got through thanks to Big Finish. It also fits Eight's constant memory problems trope though.

We flashback to a slow reveal of just who Samson and Gemma are, and it works well even going in knowing. The truth behind them is pretty horrific. They also seem like a lot of fun (pre-horrific departure), and I wouldn't mind the odd Monthly Release for the Eighth Doctor starring these two. I'm starting to say that a lot aren't I? Anyway, it's a shame their only other two appearances are in out of print short story compilations.

On the normal companion track, Charley finally starts to sound like herself with a bit of good characterisation. However, it's C'rizz that's far more notable,. There's that reveal from The Next Life taken a bit further, that C'rizz was once a mass murder spurred on by his Church. I forgot that it was never really addressed in The Next Life. Apparently people don't die the same in his universe as they do here, and what ever lets him do it, works here too.

It's pulled off quite brilliantly too. He isn't the only person hearing voices during the episode. By the time Samson's are explained, you sort of forget that the explanation wouldn't work for C'rizz either. Only at the tail end of the episode do we get the reveal and its genius. Sets up a nice little bit of tension for the audience about this companion too. Once again, the Divergent Universe trick of time is used better here than it was for most of the series that was based there.

Terror Firma starts this third season of McGann off brilliantly. After the disappointment of the Divergent Universe this was really needed. Hopefully it doesn't pull a Scherzo and is the only decent part of the season.

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