Sunday, August 30, 2009

Companion Chronicles - The Drowned World

The end of the world is seriously nigh, and available for purchase, as I give you not one but two Audio Time Team sessions this weekend.

And watch as there be spoilers ahead.

It would only seem natural that if I did Home Truths yesterday I should do The Drowned World today. A direct sequel to Home Truths, The Drowned World brings the entire creative team responsible for one of Big Finish's most popular titles from last year back together for another go around. We pick up a time after the ending of Home Truths where Robert returns to the house and Sara Kingdom, giving us an info dump of the previous audio. Robert has returned to hear another story from Sara that will help him convince his superiors not to destroy her. Once again we're teased with stories involving a boy dying in Sara's arms and a man stuck in a clock but this time around we get a story involving her adventures on an asteroid in the Red-O Belt.

The TARDIS materializes in an odd angle in a lab area and it takes no time at all for Sara, Steven, and the First Doctor to be separated from the TARDIS as it falls into water. Having no where to go up they continue to climb, opening one hatch after another. The second set of doors open up, freeing a bunch of miners and the stock Big Finish "much rejoicing noise" who weren't expecting Red-O Base to send a rescue party in time.

Sara remembers that some of the miners were convinced they'd been attacked as opposed to being struck by an act of nature. The Doctor opts to work on the life support system with a warning about the water while Sara, Steven, and Miners Hutchinson, Cowell and Keefe go to retrieve the TARDIS. It doesn't take long for the body count to start as Miner Keefe ends up playing the role of red shirt ensign in manly screaming fashion, making the mistake of not heeding the Doctor's advice to not touch the water. Think of The Abyss gone horribly wrong.

At the risk of sounding blasphemous, the real star this time is Niall MacGregor as Robert. The first time around MacGregor's Robert was a placeholder character, serving to give the listener something else to listen to than just Jean Marsh along with serving as the device that gets Sara to tell her story. This go around he's a much more integral part of the story. Simon Guerrier fleshes out his character and turns Robert into someone we actually can care about just as much as we care about what happens to Sara. Robert also serves as another narrator, at times helping to tell Sara's story. This is not to say Jean Marsh was horribly, far from it. Just as before Jean took what she was given and ran with it, providing another stellar performance.

Guerrier once again writes a gripping outer story that helps frame the inner story that Sara's telling. Ultimately, just as you find yourself caring about Robert you find youself just as engrossed in what one would think is the inconsequential outer story of what's happening to Robert's world. As before Lisa Bowerman does not disappoint. I know I sound lke a broken record, but it bears repeating that she may be the one of the best directors Big Finish has on the payroll at the moment. Maybe, it's her acting background, but she's able to bring out performances that aren't one note, something that might be easy to fall in when you're working with only two actors. There's definite shifts between the inner story and the outer story that you'd be able to tell without the aid of the sound design and music.

Even before listening to the behind the scenes chat with the creative team it's very clear that the foundation is being laid for the story of Sara and Robert to be a trilogy. And while I could eventually see that coming, it does not disappoint me. After two audios I care enough about them to want to hear a third story. One can only hope that Big Finish will bring this group together for a third time.


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