Monday, February 4, 2013

Doctor Who - Big Finish Audio Adventures - The Human Resources Part 1 and 2

Big Finish should be exceedingly proud of what they accomplished with Series 1 of the Eighth Doctor Audio Adventures, starring Paul McGann and Sheridan Smith. It was a well-wrought and thrilling ride through the Eighth Doctor’s Era that I was sad to see come to an end. Not for long obviously, as the Eighth Doctor Adventures (EDA's) continue through 3 more Series and are still going today thankfully.

The Series finishes the same way it began - another two-part story, with another Classic Fan favoruite villain. And as such an outing it almost succeeds more than the Series opener does, there is a hardy and ingrained quality to the Doctor and Lucie by the time the finale rolls around and it helps in making the story utterly engrossing.

THE HUMAN RESOURCES PART I & II, chases upon the last few minutes of NO MORE LIES, in which the nefarious “Headhunter” (played by Katarina Olsson), who has been menacing and following our Lucie since Ep1, finally catches up with her and steals her away from the Doctor. This episode begins non-chalantly enough though; seemingly in an ordinary office building. But appearances are deceiving. Naturally.

On the day Lucie was to have met the Doctor she had gone for an interview in London to work at an office. Well, in this story she finds herself on her first day of work at such an office building and doesn’t have anything but very scattered, fuzzy memories of her time in the TARDIS. The Doctor is simply a name that she sort of recalls, and those around her begin to help her integrate into cubicle life instead which she hesitantly allows. The Doctor, distraught after losing his companion, is visited by Straxus (whom some may recall is another Time Lord from Gallifrey), who tells him Lucie is very important and allows him to go rescue her. Straxus gives him a Time Ring which can get him to where she is without being discovered. Once he agrees and arrives at the office he quickly finds that things aren’t what they seem. The office isn’t really an office and the people who run it are actually being manipulated to do something more far-reaching and evil.

Spoiler: Enter the villains of the piece, the Cybermen (the Mondasian Cybermen, BEFORE they eventually settled on Telos in the Classic WHO story THE TENTH PLANET), who…for at least part of the narrative are on the defensive against mercenaries in possession of tech they shouldn’t have.

I won’t talk more story, but sufficed to say these two episodes are an absolutely humdinger of a finale. And both Eps are less about the Cybermen, than they are about politicking and war. I honestly could not have asked for a better story to end on. It has action, intrigue, comedy, mystery, twists and turns, and even some arc-wide plotting resolutions. It neatly spends the first hour establishing the bizarre events and setting with enough nods to keep you moving along and understanding while still keeping you relatively in the dark. The reveal at the end of the first hour is very interesting and the subsequent hook for the next half is well played indeed. The second hour gets to the meat of solving the problem, which puts the Doctor’s wits VERY much to the test, and simultaneously allows Lucie to shine herself in that same category. The two spend time both apart and together solving various issues, but what seems to come out most overall is that this is the episode where the bond between them is solidified. It’s at this point you realize “come hell or high water” these two are now the very best of friends and anything that threatens that bond is going to pay dearly. You will notice this from the outset since the Doctor is willing to leave his TARDIS (a vehicle he is well known to have stolen) in the hands of his people (whom he rejected years ago), and use only the Time Ring to go rescue Lucie. That’s friendship.

We also come to the resolution of WHY Lucie was placed in the TARDIS under the Doctor’s care, and just what the Time Lords were up to when they did that. It’s a resolution that I particularly liked to be honest. They could very well have chickened out on the reasoning behind her appearance and this whole business of the “witness protection program” and chalked it up to nothing much…but the writers go out of their way to make it a compelling reasoning, and tie it into her personality and the rest of the arcing story. It’s believable, because it is believable. Which seems like a copout statement, but you’ll have to listen to know what I mean by that. Trust me, it works very well.

One thing I always liked about RTD’s Era of DW on TV was his skill at wrapping up arcing plotlines while still allowing some parts of them to organically move forward still (example: Sealing Rose off on Pete’s World at the end of S2 [making way for Martha and Donna], and then letting her story loop back into S4). The same is true here, in that at the tail end of THE HUMAN RESOURCES the slate is wiped clean for The Doctor and Lucie. They now get to choose what they do and where they go, because they’ve dealt with the “How she got in the TARDIS and Why” plotline…but it allows other things (like the “headhunter”) to move forward on their own headed off in their own directions. I like seeing that knitting up of arcs that doesn’t also cut off all ties to what came before…but still managed to give me the standalone “ending” aspects I was looking for to feel satisfied the Series had a beginning, middle and an end. We don’t have to say goodbye to Eight and Lucie, but we close out their first chapter and look forward to the second.

I’ve loved, loved, loved my time with Eight and Lucie and feel that McGann and Smith deliver an impressive TARDIS team that I will be overjoyed to continue following through the next few Series (of which I have the entirety of S2, and the first ep of S3…with an eye to purchasing more when the time comes).

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The Big Finish team (casts, crews, and everyone involved) are delivering DOCTOR WHO to the fanbase on a level that I can only describe as sparkling. If you think the TV show is all there is, I think you may owe it to yourself to seek out these Audio Drama’s (and if Eight isn’t your cup of tea there are also Audio’s for the 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th Doctor’s as well) and treat yourself to the hidden gem of DW fandom. I can’t praise the quality enough and I look forward to many more hours of enjoyment!

NEXT TIME: We start Series 2 with Eight and Lucie being shifted around time in the wonderful opening story DEAD LONDON!

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