Big Finish Folly, Part 32 – Turlough’s End

Here we go then – the last (chronologically) recorded appearance of Vislor Turlough in the Big Finish canon. After this, he’s off to the big Planet of Fire in the sky…

Singularity, by James Swallow

Russia, the near future. It’s cold and unwelcoming, a bit like the atmosphere between Turlough and the Doctor. But more important than that is the unexpected rise of the Somnus Foundation, a quasi-religious institute which promises eternal life and teaches that mankind will rise to godhood amongst the stars. Yet is this the way the human race will develop? The Doctor does not believe so – but time itself is fracturing, and different possibilities fight for survival. If the Doctor is to save the future, he must also sacrifice it…

As I listened to this, on a coach returning from London, there was a slight niggling at the back of my mind. Souls projected back from the very end/death of time to conquer the past…? Surely not… But yes, this plot isn’t all that different to the Nu-Who third season finale thematically, except here the invaders’ hatred of the Doctor is a lot more personal – he is judged to have abandoned them in their hour of need, when the Timelords left this reality for another that would not collapse through entropy. Nonetheless, the TV episiode does bear an uncanny resemblence to James Swallow’s play. Someone will have to let me know if that was intentional or not…

It’s a dark and hollow play, with no real victories for anybody – not the invaders, of course, nor for this week’s “temporary companion” Lena Korolev, who has to face some pretty unpleasant events from her past, nor indeed for the Doctor himself, as the downer of a coda demonstrates. Definitely not for Lena’s friend, the over-geeky candle-holding Pavel, who I pictured as Alan Cumming from Goldeneye. Turlough meanwhile further distances himself from humankind and even makes good use of that distinction to warp the invaders’ plans.

The Somnus Foundation itself is bizarrely set up, in a shining needle-sharp tower that stands proud over the Moscow landscape, yet its experiments can be tracked to a burned-out hospital outside the city. If there’s any governmental oversight, it seems to have been long since assimilated into Somnus itself. As befits the subject matter, most of the characters are desperately striving for one of two things – survival or meaning. Even Turlough: his survival requires that he defines himself as non-human.

One quibble for me is that a couple of the characters have no clear resolution – what of Cord, for example, who gets away with murder, and yet disappears in the final scenes? I may have missed something, so again tell me if I did…

But at this stage it’s clear that The Doctor and Turlough have reached the end of their road together; there’s no real comfort in the relationship and it is evidently time for Turlough to leave the Tardis. Does he leave as a coward? Despite my labelling of him as such back in Part 30, I don’t think he really is one, yet neither is he as selfless as so many of the Doctor’s other companions. The Doctor has never had to worry about Turlough’s welfare in the way that he had to worry about Nyssa, or Tegan, and he would never need to worry that Turlough would sacrifice himself a la Adric – but Turlough’s lack of sympathy to others also hinders him and makes him a less than ideal companion. Turlough would be an interesting character in another series – the abrasive, challenging sort – but it’s difficult to see where that would come from.

Buy it here

So, with that mini-season finished, we move on to the Peri years….


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