Reviewed By: thisoldcan
Review Date: 5/20/17 9:25 pm
1 out of 1 found this review helpful.
In the second part of May's double-bill release, Cortex Fire, the Doctor (Colin Baker) and Flip (Lisa Greenwood) arrive in the futuristic city of Festin to see an opera. However, they are soon caught up in a planet-wide catastrophe, separated with the Doctor thrown in jail and Flip injured. The Doctor must race against the clock to protect the city of Festin from destruction, while finding out who is at the heart of this controversy. Ian Potter's Cortex Fire is a bit of a letdown, after the stellar opening episode. With a rather uninteresting story about a mass destruction event engineered by the ruling party, it enters into a canon of work that includes many stories. The charm of Colin Baker's performance gives this story some good will, but the absence of Lisa Greenwood's excellent Flip for much of this story is a disappointment. Considering the previous story had Flip front and center, it was bound to happen, but Big Finish has a strong companion with Flip, and I wish they'd have ran with her.
Colin Baker returns, once again, as the Sixth Doctor. As I alluded to in my opening bit, Baker is the real star of this story; he takes most of the scenes in this story, and really stands out a few times, such as his final speech to the Cortex, after it has been defeated, and his rather fun moment taking control of the air car from Halus (Simon Dylan-Kane). His performance is strong, much like many of his other performances, but it lacks the extra bit of oomph that really makes it stand out here, barring that final scene. Also returning is Lisa Greenwood's Flip Jackson, who is a delight every time she graces the audio with her presence. Unfortunately, this isn't too often, as Flip takes more of a backseat here in this story. It was to be expected, but I wish they'd given her a bit more important of a role in this story to make up for the lack of Flip here. That being said, the scene where she arrives to rescue the Doctor from jail is such a great moment, it stands among my favorite scenes from Flip across all of her audio stories.
Ian Potter's script for Cortex Fire is a rather boring affair, in all honesty. There have been several stories similar to this one over the years, and Potter's contribution to that canon of stories doesn't really have much going for it. I liked the more humorous scenes in this story, far more so than I liked the more serious parts of this story. As I mentioned earlier, the scene where Flip breaks the Doctor out of jail was riotously funny, and the scene where the Doctor casually subdues Halus in the air car and takes control gave me a good laugh. Potter absolutely nails the comedic bits of the Sixth Doctor's character, giving Colin, and Lisa as well, several lines to chew up and spit out, to great effect. His dialogue was a delight to hear throughout this story. That being said, a story featuring a shadowy authority figure aims to kill its citizens for it's own gains has been done several times over (LIVE 34, Mummy on the Orient Express, etc.), and it's not the most original concept. The former of my examples had a unique structure to the story, and a willingness to go extremely dark, while the latter centered around two excellent central performances by the Doctor and his companion. This story doesn't have much going for it that makes it stand out. Baker is strong here, but not uncommonly so. Flip is strong throughout, but barely appears, except when she's figuratively (and literally) crashing into the story. And the story itself is kind of drab, save for the somewhat cruel ending by the Sixth Doctor, showing shades of his future incarnation there. It doesn't really try to be anything other than a bog standard little story about the Doctor saving yet another alien city from the shadowy puppet masters who use them as pawns in their own games. Which is perfectly fine, but it doesn't help the story be anything other than average.
Lastly, I'd like to mention Simon Holub's solid cover art for this release. It's a simple enough cover, combining elements from both stories, such as the flying cars of Cortex Fire and the eponymous Vortex Ice, encasing the Doctor. I like the little touch of having Flip with a miner's helmet on her head as well, because it helps me to visualize the story easily. Big Finish has notably done some stronger work with their covers as of late. They've grown to be a little more experimental with their covers in the last year or so (The Contingency Club and Silent Scream stand out in my mind). While I like the more experimental covers quite a bit, I also quite like a solid, normal looking cover, much like Holub's work here. Holub is a reliable cover artist; he's not the best artist, but he produces solid, consistent work, in my opinion, and I think this one stands out as one of his best ones yet.
Overall, coming off the heels of an excellent first story, Cortex Fire was a bit of a letdown in my opinion. The performances of the two central actors, Colin Baker and Lisa Greenwood, were strong, fine performances, but I felt that Colin dominated the story, while I wanted to hear more of Lisa throughout the story. The story wasn't helped by a rather boring story I feel that I've heard about 20 times before. It didn't really have anything new to add to the style of story, and just felt like a bit of filler. There's nothing wrong with a bit of filler every now and then, but it does not make for the most interesting of stories out there.