3 out of 3 found this review helpful.
Andrew Cartmel really seems to divide fans. This whole quartet of stories seems to have met with some surprisingly negative reaction, and I can't think why. Honestly, this whole setup was a huge breath of fresh air for me, and just about reinvigorated my interest in Big Finish, which I admit had been flagging for a while there. I certainly liked these four a lot better than the previous season of Colin Baker lost stories.
Cartmel can really write character interaction almost better than anyone. Even most incidental characters who only get a few lines seem surprisingly fleshed out. It's really rather eerie that he can do this so easily. His weakness, perhaps, is plot, which he seems to basically make up as he goes along. However, his capptivating writing and the at times brilliant interaction of his characters, whose dialogues always feel 100% realistic and natural (a much rarer thing than you might think), just about make up for his shortcomings.
he's got Ben Aaronovich to help him out on this one, and it shows. The story seems a little tighter, the suspense just a little bit higher, and the space setting seems atypical of a Cartmel solo outing. I loved the fact that Ace can only command a starship by falling back on her vague memories of Star Trek....it's subtle enough that the reference doesn't bother me at all, and instead makes me grin, especially as the rest of the ship crew thinks she's a bit nuts, at best, or downright suspicious at worst.
The suspense and mystery in the first two parts is at a very high level. It's almost a disappointment that the revelations come a bit more quietly and subtly than expected, but not really, as everything is handled with such a level of confidence. It's amazing how different things feel from "normal" Big Finish stories, and thinking about it, it's still hard to put my finger on exactly what contsitutes this difference.
I'm not wild about the ending, with the whole plot basically being predicated on nobody telling anybody else what's really going on. I get that the Doctor seems to be testing Ace, in particular, through all these stories, but she's been really aggravated with him for a lot less, and nobody seems too bothered at the end that the Doctor has basically been playing a game with everybody. It seems that everything was wrapped up too quickly with the mutiny angle, too, and as I rather liked Ace's two subordinates on the ship I wanted their story to somehow have more of a satisfying conclusion. Finally, it could just be that I missed something, but I don't understand Victor and his motivation at all.
Still, the pacing and feel of this story (and the whole arc, in fact) is rather unique and wonderful, I must say. For writers who pioneered the image of the "dark" seventh Doctor, too, this is surprisingly lighthearted and a lot of fun.
These stories deserve a lot more praise. Go and get 'em!