Sunday, February 10, 2013

Big Finish - Lucie Miller - To the Death

Two Eighth Doctor stories that have to go together: Lucie Miller and To the Death, both written and directed by Nicholas Briggs.


The Daleks have returned to invade Earth again. First they bring a viral plague to weaken humanity, then they begin to mine into the Earth's core in a repeat of the events from the original Dalek Invasion of Earth. With the Eighth Doctor missing it is left to Lucie, Susan and Adam to lead the resistance  Meanwhile there's another Time Lord on the scene, the meddling Monk who appears to have struck a deal with the Daleks.

These two titles were also in the Big Finish Christmas sale and and they mark the end of a long story arc featuring the Eighth Doctor's companion Lucie Miller. They also set up some of the events, and the Doctor's feelings of hopelessness, at the start of Dark Eyes.

Like most stories Doctor Who can be reduced to the essentials of heroes and villains. The Daleks are the ultimate villains of these tales and, as ever, are brought to life with mechanical malevolence by Nicholas Brigggs and his ring modulator. They are assisted by Graeme Garden as the rogue Time Lord, the Monk, who adds some humour to the grim proceedings. Alongside him is his own conflicted companion Tamsin Drew, played by Niky Wardley. Tamsin believes she is working for the good guys and her gradual realisation that the Monk is not to be trusted leads to some powerful moments.

On the side of the resistance we have Susan who witnessed the original Invasion with the First Doctor. In previous stories I had some problems with Carole Ann Ford's performances but here she is on fine form, and is ably assisted by Paul McGann's son Jake playing Adam. McGann himself eventually turns up as we always knew he would, but even he cannot save the day this time. The Eighth Doctor may be my current favourite Big Finish incarnation, I like how natural Paul McGann sounds in the role. But here he is up against an insoluble problem which is directly related to events from one of his previous adventures in Patient Zero.

So that just leaves Lucie Miller. Sheridan Smith has played a companion to Jonathan Creek, Gavin and Stacey, and even Ronnie Biggs, but her best role may be here in these audio dramas. Lucie's narration has to carry much of the story until the Doctor's return, and as the enormity of the Daleks' plan threatens to defeat even him it falls to Lucie to save the day. I generally try to avoid spoilers in these reviews but the clue is in the title. Everyone knows what is coming and the resolute Lucie Miller goes out screaming her defiance against the Daleks. It is a powerful moment that comes at the end of a tremendous build up.

Nicholas Briggs writing and direction are perfect. There is a real sense of menace as the Daleks finally make good on all those electronic threats to "Exterminate!". People die in this story, they die at unexpected moments, and with unexpected poignancy. This invasion story restores the Daleks to their rightful place as the Doctor's most terrifying enemies, and it gives us one of the their most memorable opponents in Lucie Miller.

As you can tell I was impressed. It's a 5 star production all round. That's two top scores from the Big Finish Christmas sale. Good value indeed.

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