Big Finish Folly, Part 17

The Elite, by Barbara Clegg & John Dorney

I know, I know. After promising to keep to the main range of Big Finish audio productions, I’ve slid immediately into a set of Lost Stories. Oh well, never mind…

Set immediately post-Omega, The Elite sees Tegan back in the Tardis. This is, effectively, my first Tegan story. All apologies to Janet Fielding, but I never really got on with Tegan first time around. Very much an early 80s TV character, I found the heavy ‘Strine accent off-putting – though in retrospect Tegan was needed to balance Nyssa’s more cerebral companionship. So what the series needs right now is a story that melds both approaches and still has enough momentum of its own to keep me from wondering if I’m enjoying it…

Good news, then. The Elite is a cracking tale that takes a few surprising detours away from the more expected storyline it sets up. The crew are diverted away from their trip to the peaceful world of Florana by a craft ripping through the vortex before them, and find themselves instead in a domed city where a fascistic army wages brutal, total warfare against the rest of the world – all in the name of their High Priest. While Tegan is deemed subnormal and expelled to work in the slave mines, and Nyssa is inducted into the Academy that teaches The Elite – physically and mentally perfect – to destroy their enemies, the Doctor battles to keep his friends safe, to disrupt this appalling regime, and to stop himself being used as a tool in the internecine strife between General Aubron and Thane, the High Priest’s man. And, high in the great temple, the High Priest is aware that there are strangers in the city…

I’ll try to keep spoilers out of it, but if that’s your preference, don’t read the tags at the bottom of this post. The High Priest’s appearance, at the end of Part 2, makes perfect sense with all that has gone before. In fact, you can almost see it coming. At the same time it still manages to chill the bones and alter the balance and tone of the play. The Elite lose their “Ender’s Game” sheen, and the remainder of the story is a desperate struggle for survival as the various factions all fight for supremacy. Even the High Priest becomes a casualty – and I really didn’t see that coming.

Excellent writing, excellent acting – and no, Tegan didn’t spoil my enjoyment! – and a finished product that shows up the sheer stupidity of fascistic policies and war while being superb drama that can stand head to head with the very best Who TV episodes.
*****

Buy it here

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