Saturday, June 27, 2015

Ends of the Worlds

I keep finding myself amazed by the writing quality on some of the Doctor Who audio plays--I listened to two nice Eighth Doctor audios this past week, Faith Stealer and The Last, both from 2004. I'm not sure I have a favourite of the two, they're both good in very different ways, both go in new directions with relatively standard Doctor Who premises.

Faith Stealer is a genuinely funny commentary on religion, or rather on political attitudes toward religion and degrees of tolerance. The Doctor and his companions Charley and C'rizz find themselves in a sort of year round religion convention, a community where a vast variety of religions are represented, including one that worships a hymn that must be continually sung and, my favourite, a religion that worships accidents. Their deity is called "Whoops" and they compulsively say, "Whoops be praised!" whenever someone makes a mistake. As funny as it is, the story makes a rather daring statement when one of the religions becomes a threat to people's lives and is allowed to grow stronger due to an unwavering commitment to tolerance from the administration. All in all, Faith Stealer may be the most strident condemnation and parody of religion from Doctor Who before the return of the television series, the latest season of which has had a curious and disappointing pull towards embracing religion with even a Dalek glimpsing "divinity".

The Last seems at first like it's going to be pretty run of the mill with the Doctor and his companions showing up on a world with despotic leader and a discontent populace. Only this time the Doctor arrives well past the point where he could have made a difference--the population has been almost completely wiped out except for the leader and around a hundred of her supporters. She's introduced practising a victory speech because her top advisers have misled her about the extent of damage caused by the war. There's a genuinely eerie quality to the story, particularly when C'rizz encounters a ghost and one of the people in the bunker, one of the leader's top advisers, seems to have appeared in the bunker after the end of the war.

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