Saturday, March 14, 2015

Fake Angels and Fake God

It seems cruel that so far in the monthly Doctor Who audio plays I've listened to the Sixth Doctor's stories have been better written than the Seventh Doctor's stories. A good example is the contrast between the two audio plays I listened to this past week, The Rapture and The Sandman, both from 2002, a Seventh Doctor story and a Sixth Doctor story respectively.

As much as I hate to say it, the problem in the Seventh Doctor stories may be Ace. Ace is one of my favourite companions but, since the television series was cancelled in the middle of her arc, the first companion whose story was a large part of the series' focus, audio plays feel compelled to continue her arc. After the events of Colditz--so far my favourite Seventh Doctor audio play--Ace has decided she wants to be known as MacShane, her real last name, in an apparent deliberate attempt to grow up. The Doctor's not the only one who fortunately has a hard time remembering not to call her Ace. For some reason, the writers seem compelled to inject a spiritual, psychotherapy quality into Ace's story, something that came off really bad in The Shadow of the Scourge and only slightly better in The Rapture. This story concerns a pair of DJs calling themselves angels, one named Gabriel and the other Jude, which seems odd since I know Jude is actually an apostle. Anyway, as the Doctor says early on, in his experience anyone calling himself an angel usually turns out to be the opposite.

The story starts off sounding like it's going to be a high handed criticism of drug taking, club going young hedonists. It doesn't quite go that way but it's still fairly embarrassing and a lot of Ace's story has the kind of big melodramatic beats bad writers mistake for real character development, like revelations of long lost family members.

The Sandman, meanwhile, features the Sixth Doctor and Evelyn's encounter with the Galyari, a sentient reptilian race who live in endlessly travelling space crafts collectively called "the Clutch". The Doctor is the one posing as a religious figure this time, as a sort of Old Testament angry god and much to Evelyn's shock he confirms to a frightened Galyari that he wore the skins of dead Galyari and is responsible for mass murder in order to establish his dominance. The audio play becomes an intriguing meditation on the value of fear inspired by religion used in order to enforce morality.

The Sandman features actress Anneke Wills who played the First and Second Doctor's companion, Polly. She's unrecognisable here as one of the Galyari. She was pretty wooden on the television series, I have to say age has improved her acting ability a lot.

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