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Reviews By Crystal Logic
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Reviewed By: Crystal LogicReview Date: 4/19/13 1:27 pm
4 out of 6 found this review helpful.

I finished listening to this three days ago and I haven't really stopped thinking about it. I think that says a great deal, especially considering how inconsequential many of these "Lost Stories" turn out to have been. Not this, though. this is really fascinating drama, with great characters that could very easily carry a story completely on their own without any of the regular Doctor Who cast. People will obviously want to compare this with Kinda or Snakedance, and I think that's a bit of a mistake, although some of the social intrigue and strong cultural background that was present in Snakedance is definitely here.

I want to praise the hell out of this story, actually, because I must admit that partway through episode two I believed somehow that I had it all figured out, knew what type of story it was and where it was going. It turned out I was completely wrong. It's usually the first episode of a story that gives me the "intrigue chills", but here, all the creepiest and most haunting bits were saved for the final act. I don't think it's a crime for a story to lose steamm toward the end, simply because I'm one of those people who usually enjoys the journey more than the destination and am often more attracted to the beginnings of things than their conclusions (hope that makes sense to someone out there!), but this tale...this was somethign else. I don't really know if it was the input of Christopher Bailey, who came up with the original story outline, but this feels somehow different from the usual fare, even though, to be sure, Big Finish has done this sort of high court intrigue tale before. I think what really sets it apart is the superb characters, but also the weirdness. I really do mean weirdness, too. Anahita, an old friend of the Doctor's, calls him to Sirius and announces at the end of episode two that she wants him to "go down into Hell for her". And she really does mean a literal, true Hell, which this society knows and fears well. From there, things only get stranger, and yet behind it all there's still the battle of court politics and political machinations, in the manner of an I, Claudius, or something of that nature.

The supporting cast are all really energised and deliver memorable performances, with plaudits, of course, going to David Warner and Honor Blackman, but really, I must single out Adrian Lukis's Lord Vyzan because...damn, he really, really steals the show. I guess he's the principal antagonist, but the thing is, he's a perfectly nuanced, believable person, with passions and ideas and musings all his own. There are so many great moments for him in this play it's hard to know where to begin. I love how quick to honest, genuine laughter, though usually of a rather wry sort, he is. His reaction to finding out that Nyssa really is a time and space traveller as she says goes from disbelief, to sadness, to resignation in a matter of a few seconds when he realises that it doesn't really matter and she still has to be sent to Level 14. He's a warmonger, yet when he learns that his people are going to be subject to mass-murder, he seethes with outrage. So yes, love him: the character, the performance--I wanted more of him and was genuinely sad when he met his end.

And that ending....it's actually quite something, and I'm surprised noone else seems to have really commented on it anywhere. Anahita turns out to be....well, quite a schemer and manipulator, and while she may have been the Doctor's friend at one point, he's certainly in a hurry to leave at the play's conclusion, and I kind of get the impression he isn't too happy about things. The end itself is really haunting, too, and actually gave me a bit of a creepy feeling. It's understated, mind you, but rather dark. The sense is that the lies and deceptions will continue, and the poisonings, as Warner's Autarch affectionately tells his wife that she should keep her bottles handy. The idea of random people just stoppign in their tracks, never to return to their normal lives, never really suspected by those around them, is also very eerie.

Nothing is wasted in this script, with every conversation and action having some meaning or relevance. It's entirely possible that I missed some things, but there are still questions I have about the story, the society and so on, that I can't answer. I think that is actually a good thing and will likely have me returning to this play at some point in the near future. I don't actually get the urge to listen to many plays multiple times, but this one, I feel, will reward return visits. I even feel it could have been longer!

I should talk about the regulars too I suppose. To be frank this isn't always a great TARDIS team for me, and Davison is probably my least favourite Doctor on audio. Everyone does well here, though, probably because they know they have a great script on their hands, though Davison still sounds slightly embarrassed or weird in some line interpretations. Poor Nyssa gets a brainwashing once again and is not at all "with it" for most of the second half of the story, but Tegan is brave and resourceful and doesn't complain, which is obviously meant to say that her character does better than usual and actually seems like a good person to be around. She is really the most proactive of our main characters in the "real" world in the latter half as the Doctor is rather occupied in a different sort of reality. I think Tegan and Anahita had a great rapport, too.

Bravo to this one, then: probably the best of the Davison Lost Stories and certainly a lot better than most of the Colin Baker ones. Never mind that, though; it's really a glorious piece of drama that everyone should hear. Interestingly, I didn't care for the music at all in the beginning, it seeming rather too pervasive, electronic and intrusive, but by the end of the play I was totally into it and what it was doing. SO yes, highly recommend this one, and also suggest that listeners not base judgment solely on an initial listen, as there's a lot going on here and, as I said, no scenes are wasted. It's very talky and you really have to listen well to pick up on the subtleties and implications of the story and understand just how great all the guest characters are.
From the Reviewer:
User Rating:
8
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NR
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Reviewed By: Crystal LogicReview Date: 1/15/13 9:19 pm
2 out of 3 found this review helpful.

A really interesting story. I like the idea of these "Doctor-light" tales a lot, actually, and of course this works well for the theme of a manipulative Seventh Doctor. Loved the setup of the isolated house and Ace and Hex wandering around, becoming introduced to our lovely old couple, only to find that things aren't right in a number of key areas. The Bomb really does go off and the effects are terrifying. I think this stuff, along with the calm yet portentous intonations of the radio announcements, would scare anyone who grew up as a child of the Cold War. The fear isn't as prevalent among today's generation, but the notion of nuclear destruction is actually just as terrifying as it always was.

The structure of the tale is a little unusual. Episodes one and two set up the scenario and the mystery, and bring a deepening sense of dread and impending disaster. Episode three takes us back to how everything got started, and it's the most Doctor-heavy part of the story. Because the Doctor is wandering around, putting plans into action and visiting a host of people all over the world to set up his plan, it feels like a final episode. Only Ace and Hex are still trapped, and it's up to them to resolve the situation in the real final part, since the Doctor isn't actually around!

Which brings me to the climax. Now, I agree that altruism is a wonderful thing, but I don't really feel that it's what makes us human. Obviously Morris was trying to make a point here, and to be fair it is congruent with the slant of a great deal of Doctor Who, but I think he's kind of on shaky ground. How would, say, a devotee of Ayn Rand have resolved the story? "No sympathy for Randians! They're not really human", I hear someone shouting and banging the table. Still, isn't it interesting that Moloch probably acted more human than the Doctor himself did in this story? At least he came back for his children!

I'm also not really clear on how the Doctor knew the Elder Gods would pass into the bodies of Albert and peggy and thus into his "pocket dimension". Couldn't they have checked their future in just about anyone? I've got no problem with the idea of a Doctor manipulating things from the sidelines, but I take issue with him being granted impossibly perceptive abilities or near-omnipotence whenever the script calls for it to happen, and Protect and Survive is a little bit guilty.

Still, the ideas behind this were so intriguing and the setup so engrossing that I can't give Protect and Survive less than an 8.
From the Reviewer:
User Rating:
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Reviewed By: Crystal LogicReview Date: 1/15/13 9:03 pm
0 out of 1 found this review helpful.

A couple of spoilers here:

A good one, this. I\'d almost call it \"hard SF\", and I\'m reminded very much of stuff by Arthur C. Clarke and his disciples. A bunch of people live out a rather spare existence on a comet, and the Doctor and friends are thrown into the middle of a political/commercial conflict. Throw in the cloud-like Jovians, something which I\'m sure I\'ve seen before, either in a Clarke story or something very like it, and we have what turns out to be a very intriguing puzzle. In the interview extras the director talks about wanting to convey a sense of tension; of people living on the edge and on the point of \"doing something drastic\". This actually comes across rather well in the script and acting. Characters don\'t always behave quite in the way you\'d expect. They decide things rather abruptly and even recklessly. One of my favourite moments is when Chica is told of what\'s going on on the other side of the comet and just promptly grabs the public address mic and shouts out everything to the whole base staff. Wouldn\'t we all like to do that sort of thing if we found out about the dastardly schemes and manipulations underpinning our society?

I appreciate the subtlety of the script, too, which doesn\'t really beat us over the head with detail and over-explaining stuff but instead opts for a subtle approach. You have to stay on your toes a little bit to keep track of what\'s going on and especially to understand the characters\' motivations. Nobody here is quite what you\'d expect, except maybe for Major Nash, who seems like a bit of a caricature of a \"good ole\' army boy\" and is rather ridiculous. I really liked Anton and it was a real pity about what happened to him, as I found myself really hoping he\'d make it through the story. Patricia, on the other hand, is taken out and shot like a dog that\'s outlived its usefulness, and even though she was rather despicable, I was a little shocked at how quickly and mercilessly she was just done away with. Not that I\'m complaining!

The Jovians are pretty cool, but their buzzing electric storm voices were a little incomprehensible to me in the early episodes. Either I got used to it or things just improved later on in the story. They seem rather easily convinced of the duplicity of their allies, but on the other hand it\'s nice to see the Fifth Doctor\'s attempts at diplomacy actually working for a change.

The regulars are all well served here. The days of the crowded TARDIS team wandering uselessly around with members having nothing to do seem to be pretty much over. Turlough sells the trial scene like this is the sort of stuff he was meant to play. Nyssa really tugs on the heart strings with her attempts to save anyone and everyone, no matter how wrong or horrible they might be--it\'s almost as though it\'s become a compulsion for her by now. I like how at first the script plays on her apparent sexual naiveté by having her not pick up what seems obvious to Tegan: that manny is Violet\'s boyfriend, but in the end she turns out to be completely correct! Tegan is at the centre of everything, investigating the secret base and coming up with the idea that saves everyone, only to apparently kill Nyssa in the process. This is well done and is an obviously deliberate call-back to Earthshock, except this time Tegan understands what the Doctor\'s perspective must have been in that story. It\'s interesting how Big Finish seems to seek to redress some of the obvious problems that plagued the Davison era. I must admit this line of adventures (with Tegan, Nyssa and Turlough) had me most skeptical in the beginning, but has turned out, after a shaky initial trilogy, to be very worthy indeed. It\'s also great to have Mark Strickson back. he really is a superb actor, and I think I missed him more than I initially realised!

From the Reviewer:
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Reviewed By: Crystal LogicReview Date: 1/6/13 4:24 am
0 out of 1 found this review helpful.

Well, of course they'll get more than they bargained for! This is another in a long line of "awaken the ancient, terrible god-being" plots so prevalent in Doctor Who starting back in the 70s, or the late 60s perhaps if you want to include stories like The krotons. To be fair, it's a dependable, solid science fantasy archetype, and one which I have no trouble admitting I thoroughly enjoy on many occasions, as can be seen from my enthusiastic review of Big Finish's own Lurkers at Sunlight's Edge. It does have to be done with a suitable degree of grave atmosphere and style in order to be intriguing and, yes, terrifying, and to its credit, The Guardians of Prophecy does at least strive for these things.

But I wasn't too convinced, to be frank, and felt that the story's ideology was a bit confused, and what's more, that it was even a bit on the dull side. serenity is shielded by some kind of aura of psychic goodness, and this shield is controlled by a benevolent computer known as Prophecy. Supposedly, serenity, like Traken before it, is a place where evil simply cannot thrive. I'm interested in how this process is supposed to work. After all, the story seems to take pains to tell us that "Evil" and "Good" are concrete, nearly physical forces in the universe, yet Serenity is a place that doesn't shy away from executing criminals, and where the ambitious guard commander is allowed to hatch his plans for coup unnoticed. I also have to ask: what kind of society leaves the waste matter of Evil, the Melkur, sitting around waiting to be activated? Why not cast them off into space or something? Isn't keeping them on site just asking for trouble? While The Keeper of Traken suggests that Melkur are what happens when Evil tries to sink its proverbial claws into a "protected" planet, the evildoers (or maybe just a representation of their Evil natures?) being calcified and rendered inert statues, this one maintains they were created by malador in order to do his bidding. Either system could work, I suppose, but neither is very convincing, and I agree with one of the above reviewers here that reducing them to an obedient army of servants is a bit disappointing. That Lament they sing really sounds amazing, though. It's almost as a result of that lament alone that I wish more had been made of them as creatures of pain and unparalleled loneliness, forever calling into the void.

The acting here is uniformly good, although the Auga and Escalus characters, while played by different people, sound nearly identical, so it's fortunate they're never in the same scene together. The characters themselves are rather stock and lack interest. More might have been made of Mura, who is perhaps portrayed as being too single-minded and selfish. For once in Doctor Who I'd love to see a political rebel who is in the wrong but honestly has the best intentions and can still convince the audience of this. As it is, we're happy to see Mura go because, plain and simple, he's a bastard who doesn't give a damn to anyone, and his talk of handing over power to the people once the revolution has succeeded is so much obvious empty rhetoric. Auga, his ally, is a pathetic old man with unclear motivation, and Ebbko, though charming and well portrayed by Graham Cole, spouts clich?s most of the time. It's a good thing Malador didn't have an expert thief at his disposal! Ebbko and the Doctor are basically responsible for saving the day in equal measure, but it's Ebbko's actions that come off as being most heroic.

As for Malador, well, it's undeniable that even today, that Stephen Thorne has one hell of a voice! You shouldn't be surprised to learn that Big Finish takes full advantage of this, having his lines full of grandiose pronouncements about the supremacy of evil and darkness and death, and getting him to shout "WHAT!!!" and "Nooooo!" seemingly every few minutes. It's massively over-the-top, but it befits a character who is supposed to be a distilation of "pure Evil" and is certainly enjoyable. I'm a bit confused about his origins: Once he was a normal man, but he had his conscience surgically removed, became immortal and was vested with incredible psychic powers. But how, and why? And while much is made of the dualism of Malador and Prophecy, Malador himself seems to point out that Prophecy is no more than a machine made to keep him and his kind enslaved. What happens when the "Shield of Evil" is in place around Serenity? Nothing much, as far as the audience can tell. The story seems to want to have its cake and eat it when it comes to the dualism of Evil and Good. It's a dualism I'm not entirely comfortable with, anyway. The Ancient ones in Lurkers at Sunlight's Edge don't worship Evil, they're simply incapable of understanding that life on the level of human beings has any purpose or justification other than as potential meat or playthings for themselves. malador, on the other hand, exalts Evil, seemingly taking utter delight in using it, along with death and destruction, to represent his purpose in life. Ah well, one can't think about these things too much. Sadly I really wanted something more to grab on to with this one to make it more enjoyable for me, and as an epic battle between two polar archetypes, it seems to lack something....fun? Conviction? Hard to say, really.

a funny observation: There's a lot of "grabbing" going on in this story! The guards and the Melkur seem to be doing it all the time: putting their hands on our heroes with a smack and dragging them somewhere, resulting in the same kind of "ow! Don't push!!" kind of protests. You have to be pretty convincing in order to do this kind of thing properly!

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