Big Finish Folly, Part 93 – The Nowhere Place, by Nicholas Briggs
A terrifying intuition brings the Tardis to a fighter carrier orbiting Pluto, where Captain Oswin battles alien raiders – and a peculiar ringing noise that is crippling her crew one by one. The problem could be rooted on a train driving up a snowbound line somewhere in 1952 – or it could be rooted even further back in time. The Doctor doesn’t have long to rescue humanity from the Nowhere Place…
Okay, this is definitely a play of two halves. You might almost say that it is two plays welded together, because the two time periods have nothing in common on the surface. The idea of a bell ringing to call people through a door into nowhere is a strong concept, especially given the motive behind it (which elevates the story up into the realms of pure space opera in the final episode). The thing with the train, however, is just a little puzzling and actually threatens to derail (sorry) the plot just after the halfway mark.
Nick Briggs is a fifties-style version of himself, all puns and optimistic geekiness, a welcome distraction from Captain Oswin’s sharply poisonous fatalism, but the third episode doesn’t really add enough to the story. The potential is there for a train-bound tale, certainly, and especially one that looks at post-war technology, espionage and fears of Communism, but it doesn’t feel like the Nowhere Place needs that kind of story.
Interestingly, humanity (in the form of Oswin and her command) is presented as an insular, belligerent and intolerant race even as it expands outwards from the solar system. In that respect it isn’t much different from the vestigial remains of the life force that lurks in the Nowhere Place, which is hostile to all that has come after it. Oswin’s decision to fire nukes at her own ship ought to repel the Doctor, but he is caught up in his battle against this vestigial force.
So what we end up with is a play with very little natural humour (other than that generated by Briggs in the third episode) and a touch too much looking forward into bleak unknowns. Little wonder that Evelyn Smythe really doesn’t want to get involved in the first place, really – she spends much of the running time reacting to and against Oswin’s mentality.