Reviewed By: Eiphel
Review Date: 9/21/12 6:33 am
3 out of 4 found this review helpful.
I'm a big fan of the Forge stories, like most people, but I do think that they may be better suited to full cast dramas. They're characterised by gritty hardbitten characters and a degree of intense action, and these things are harder to succesfully evoke in narration. Part one, which goes for this the most, struggled a little for me. Having your narrators be tough soldier types limits the emotional range a little, and on top of that it can be hard to bring urgent, pacy action to life. In particular I found Amy Pemberton's narration didn't completely engage, and it may well have suffered for having to convey a lot of the action sequences and thriller-style drama. The first-person narrative style excels at conveying character and emotion, which is the other side of the spectrum from the action in part one.
Maggie O'Neill made for a better narrator, I thought, though in the first episode she still suffers for having to be gruff and hardened. Episode two really opens up things more to being character driven, and that's when Lysandra flourishes. By the end of the story, I felt like Lysandra's character had definitely been enriched.
This is also one of those Companion Chronicles without a framing device or in-universe twist to the narration. There's nothing at all wrong with that, however I have often found the stories where the characters are narrating merely to the 'audient void' (to borrow a term from Lovecraft, appropriately) can be a bit more dry, and as remarked, the Forge style can be quite dry anyway. On top of that, the story seems to be slighty awkwardly straddling the fence on what it wants to be. Having Sylvester recording the Doctor's lines and an additional voice doing the one of the most prominent Forge soldiers, it comes frequently close to being a full cast play. It may have strengthened the narration to commit more to the CC format, though I won't complain about more of Sylv, and even the extra voice (I'm afraid I don't know who it is) gives quite a good showing as the random Forge grunt. (As an aside, I like to imagine this is actually being narrated to Ace and Hex, during the start of Black and White.)
The story itself is a good one, with a distinct split into two halves. The first is military-action-thriller. An aerial infiltration of a moving hi-tech train crossing frozen Romania, crewed by soldiers and carrying a mysterious payload. It's very evocative imagery, and stirs some excitement in spite of the troubled fit with first person narration.
Cav and Mark have always had a good head for continuity, and an understanding of how to make fan-pleasing stuff further a story, rather than derail it (pun intended). Nirvana works in smart use of plot threads from Casualties of War and the previous Project tales, as well as the elements of the Black and White arc, and temporal plotting. All of it serves the story and coheres tightly, stitching the action movie first half to the horror novel second half.
The second episode is very good, strengthening matters all over. It has more character to it - especially for Aristedes, whose story it really is. Unfortunately Sally doesn't get to show much of herself, so I hope we'll revisit the Black Team's travels one day, and she can have the spotlight. And episode two has the Doctor! Rather peculiar and unexpected, particularly for a Companion Chronicle, the Doctor almost seems to have arrived early, as if he was aiming for the end of the story but missed. His presence, impressively, does not overshadow Aristedes' story, but enhances it. (Given McCoy is actually performing the Doctor, that's quite commendable.)
Episode two also give us the driving force behind the story, a creative and well fleshed out element whose name might ring a bell for Lovecraftian afficionados. Whilst I feel its influence upon Sally was written a little flatly (there's not a lot of variance and depth to it, once Sally submits completely), there's some undeniably good use of horror tropes. Emotional outbursts are not only dramatic, but a great creepy staple when juxtaposed into bizarre places, and bizarre juxtaposition is generally well elicited by the thing. It's a memorable creation.
On the whole, Project: Nirvana does a great deal of successful stuff. It enhances the mythology of the Forge, enriches the Black and White plot arc, and further characterises the Black TARDIS team - Aristedes in particular. Where it struggles, which I found it to do largely in episode one, it's generally because the story is conflicting with the Companion Chronicles format. The plot itself is pretty compelling all the way through. 7/10.