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!