Reviewed By: thisoldcan
Review Date: 3/31/18 3:41 pm
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In The Skies of New Earth, Devon Pryce (Kieran Hodgson) is sent on another mission by Senator Hame, this time to the skies of New Earth, and the mysterious floating city of New Caelum. Relishing in his trip to this magical city, Devon is soon reminded of the reason why he’s here: Lux Incorporated has a much larger presence then normal in the city. When a mining experiment goes awry, the Lux are able to seize control of the city’s power sources, and secure a lasting foothold in the city. But the Lux seem far more interested in securing control of the city than they should, and Devon, aided by his new friends and his old friend, the Doctor, are on the trail of the Lux; but when they discover why the Lux are so interested in the city, they may just be too late to stop their plans. The Skies of New Earth is the highlight of the set so far, with an exhilarating adventure for Devon Pryce and his friends. The cast is the strongest it’s been all set long, with Kieran Hodgson back on top form as both Devon and the narrator for the Doctor. But it’s the fantastic guest cast for the story that truly delights; Toby Hadoke delivers a fantastic dual performance as the voice of the Lux and, more notably, Oscar McLeod, a jetpack-wielding “Solar Bear”, while Nina Toussaint-White gives a thoroughly exciting performance as Loba Christata. Paul Morris delivers an exhilarating tale that not only gives another fantastic area for Tales of New Earth and its characters to explore, but also delivers a tight, adventurous plot. This story is perhaps the most light-hearted of the three stories so far, leaning into the comedic elements that come from a new human, a bird person, and a jetpack-wielding Solar Bear being forced to work together. The character work, especially for the new characters, are perhaps some of the best of the set, and indeed, Toby Hadoke’s Oscar McLeod is one of the finest characters to make his debut at Big Finish. Overall, going into the finale, it’ll be tough to top this fantastic story, and any fears I had after the quality of the previous story have certainly been allayed.
Kieran Hodgson once again returns as Devon Pryce, new human agent looking out for the well-being of New Earth. After a somewhat inconsistent, seemingly nervous performance in the previous story, Hodgson’s performance here is far more self-assured, and greatly benefits from a lighter, more comedic script. Hodgson is a delight throughout the tale, and he’s at his best when he’s given a chance to show off his deadly deadpan comedy. Joining Hodgson in the story are Nina Toussaint-White as Loba Christata, a blue jay-like bird woman who is protesting the latest energy projects that threaten the Ice Clouds of New Earth, and Toby Hadoke as the Lux and, in perhaps one of his finest roles, Oscar McLeod, a Solar Bear activist friend of Loba who uses a jetpack to traverse the skies of New Earth. Toussaint-White is a delight as the delightfully provocative Loba, slotting into the guest cast well, and acting as a fantastic scene partner to Hodgson. But it’s Hadoke who really steals the show here; his take on the Lux continues to impress, but really, I’m here to talk about Oscar. Oscar is just… easily one of the best guest characters to come out of Big Finish recently. I’d compare him favorably to Panda from the Iris Wildthyme audios or Adrian from Bernice Summerfield, as he fits that mold of both a sarcastic, yet lugheaded friend of the main characters. Hadoke really does a fantastic job with the character, wringing out every bit of deadpan comedy he can from the character, and giving the character an infectious joy and simplicity that serves to improve nearly every scene he’s a part of.
Paul Morris takes over writing duties for the penultimate story of the box set, with an airy tale that features the penultimate plan of the Lux in the story, and serves as a strong seague into the finale of the set. His story has perhaps the best, most consistent plot of the entire set so far, with not only an intriguing standalone story, but a well-crafted escalation for the arc of the box set as a whole. The standalone plot was the most engaging and was perhaps the most exciting part of the story. Morris did a fine job, just as Roy Gill and Roland Moore have so far, in crafting a richly detailed world for the characters to play around in, this time featuring the city of New Caelum in the skies. The city lends the story an airy and free quality that translates well into a lush story. We’re transported through various intriguing landscapes through an exhilarating tale that finally features the history of the Lux a bit, but also a fantastic look at the way the people of New Earth have treated those who settled on the planet before them. The way that Morris fit the standalone story into the arc, using the backdrop of the mining accident to highlight the dangers of those energy techniques, while highlighting the seeming appeal of the Lux’s own technology, serves both the story and the set well, and helps escalate the story into a strong, more tense story midway through the story.
But it’s Morris’ work with the characters in this story that really stands out. Apart from the richly detailed backdrops for each story, one of the best parts about this set so far has been the strength of the character of Devon Pryce. From the world, “go”, he has felt like a detailed, layered, and most of all, relatable, character. With this story, Morris really goes a long way towards making all the characters in his tale feel rich and detailed. This evidence is highlight by the two highlights of the guest cast, Oscar McLeod and Loba Christata, but Morris also extends that same level of detail to smaller characters, like Berkhoff (played well by Julian Rhind-Tutt) and the Lux. Apart from the characters, one of the other things that Morris does so well, as compared to the previous story, is to bring the Doctor into the story extremely well, and make it feel like he really belongs there this time around. The absence of David Tennant, despite Kieran Hodgson’s excellent impression, is still resounding, but Morris gives the Doctor something to do beyond simply working alongside Devon and company, like in the last story. Here, the Doctor feels far more essential; the understanding between the Doctor and the Old Man in the Nest helps move the story forward, while his confrontation with the Lux in the finale of the story couldn’t have been done by any other character. The Doctor’s presence in the previous story felt a bit superfluous, but here, there’s far more justification for his presence in the story.
Overall, The Skies of New Earth brings the story to its climax with an exhilarating tale set in the skies of New Earth. Kieran Hodgson turns in his best performance yet as Devon Price, and is joined by an outstanding guest cast, led by the wonderful Nina Toussaint-White and the brilliant Toby Hadoke. Writer Paul Morris ably crafts an intriguing tale of a city that hangs in the balance, which works extremely well as a standalone tale, and fits in extremely well into the overarching narrative of Tales from New Earth and the arc of the Lux. Morris continues the trend of the previous writers in crafting a rich, detailed world with the city of New Caelum and the various creatures that surround it, but sets himself and his story apart with some absolutely brilliant character work, writing the existing character of Devon well, while introducing us to several fantastic new ones, none more so than Oscar McLeod. As we move into the finale of the set, Morris and company may have just hit their stride in the box set with this penultimate story, something that bodes well going into the final story.