Reviewed By: JMChurch25
Review Date: 7/14/17 5:55 pm
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One thing that I absolutely love about Doctor Who Big Finish stories is their ability to go places that the show on TV wouldn't dare go. "Son of the Dragon", the villain trilogy ("Omega" / "Davros" / "Master"), "Creatures of Beauty", "Blood of the Daleks", and a good chunk of the War Doctor stories fit wonderfully in to this category and these stories remain some of my all time favorites. But in all my years of Doctor Who audio listening, I never dreamed I would listen to a story quite as dark, brutal, and intriguing like this one. If you wanted to hear what would happen if Doctor Who met 'A Clockwork Orange' with elements of '2001: A Space Odyssey' thrown in, look no further. "Red" sees the TARDIS violently hurt and knocked out of the vortex by a malevolent force and the Seventh Doctor and Mel forced to land on the Needle, a dark place out of your worst Utopian nightmares. The Needle's inhabitants have agreed to be put under the manipulative control of a computer called "Whitenoise" to control their most negative impulses through a form of embedded chip electric shock therapy. Through 'Whitenoise' constantly monitoring their thoughts, the people lose their free will but instead are supposed to gain a new layer of safety to protect society. Or so was supposed to be the purpose. Something however is going wrong and the supposedly harmless citizens have begun killing while chanting the word 'red' over and over. With the Doctor and Mel separated almost immediately, both are put in hellish situations with the Doctor implanted with a chip himself that forces him to confront his own violent tendencies while Mel is kidnapped and taken to the underground part of the city where pain and violence are reveled in regularly and celebrated as an expression of free will. Which character is really the worse off here and can the Doctor choose between saving Mel or saving the people of the city who may not even deserved to be saved? This is easily one of the most adult stories ever for Doctor Who that tackles the question 'If violence is the lesser out of two evils, does that make it acceptable?' It's a concept explored fully throughout in an intriguing story and plot taken straight from some of the best dark sci-fi stories. The atmosphere and soundscape is gritty as hell right out of the bleakest dystopian novels accentuated by a creepy as hell soundtrack. I honestly felt like I was listening to a Doctor Who version of some of the dark YouTube channels (Rob Dyke, Chills, etc.) I'm fond of watching during the day. There are many moments that genuinely disturbed me from the Doctor's screams as he's being chipped to the sounds of all of the murders and violence being committed and especially for the people who genuinely like it in the dark city and it's made all the stronger for it by making this one extremely memorable. This story is a major tour de force for the Seventh Doctor. McCoy manages not only to be sympathetic but also utterly terrifying in some of his worst and most intimidating moments ever given to the character. It gives an interesting stance for him to take in defending people's rights to hurt each other as the Doctor has always been opposed to violence in any form and watching the Doctor succumb and work with his darkest and most violent influences is scary as hell especially for this particular Doctor. I will admit though the constant rolling of the Rs with McCoy accents is a tad annoying at times but not enough to where I didn't enjoy it at all. Bonnie Langford as Mel is also amazingly good here as she confronts some truly dark and uncomfortable moments with her character especially in the second half. She almost seems like the wrong companion for this kind of a dark story as it almost fits better with Ace or Hex but it still works here in a different way precisely because she's normally so positive and so bright and her presence in this story is fascinating if not necessarily good. The rest of the cast is good and everyone works to bring this story up to a high level. I would say that this one does have a few minor problems that do bring it down from being an absolute masterpiece. There is a lot of technobabble that can be a little distracting and a tad hard to follow and the ultimate villain of the master computer is a little bit standard and unsurprising in the worst way. But these are minor flaws in a very solid core that will really make you think before the end. There aren't many Classic Who Big Finish stories that I buy on full CD simply because there are way too many that I enjoy and love and that collection would be absolutely vast. A story has to be either a strong New Series audio or an absolutely top of the range, intriguing, or powerful Classic audio for me to have a CD copy of it. After listening to this story.....I think I have a new one to add to that physical collection.