Manchester Paradox!

Big Finish Folly, Part 103 – The Raincloud Man, by Eddie Robson

The Raincloud ManA greasy breakfast – at which Charlotte Pollard fully intends to confess the truth of her paradoxical nature – is interrupted by the presence of a 2012-minted coin in 2009. And so the Doctor is haring off to Manchester, in search of another time traveller. But this isn’t a simple case of lottery fixing and fraud, and soon the Doctor and Charley – and DI Menzies – are mixed up in an intergalactic war, where there can only be one solution…

We’re back in Manchester, with Anna Hope playing both Scott and Bailey once more, and the foundations of Charley’s well-intentioned lies are crumbling around her. Just as with The Condemned, Robson’s statement of intent in this arc, there’s a hell of a lot going on in this story, and there’s hardly a moment wasted as concepts are laid out with the speed of a Las Vegas dealer.

We’ve got a amnesiac time traveller on the run, a man whose very presence can turn someone else’s luck for the worse (the titular character), a majestic yacht that teleports from shore to shore, DI Menzies’s growing role as a mediator between aliens and humans in Manchester(ad when will she begin to clash with UNIT, eh?) – and all of the above is mere background to the massive intergalactic war that must be resolved before the end of the story. Crikey. No wonder everybody (except Menzies, of course) sounds out of breath.

The theme is gambling. Everybody is taking chances. Charley is gambling her future with the Doctor; Brooks and the Cyrox are playing for keeps; the Tabbalac need to win or bust. And the Raincloud Man is a natural busted flush. Unfortunately, the house always wins. And in a twist tpical of flippant Sixey, the climactic scene hangs on a game that couldn’t be further from poker. It’s so daft that it works.

Like so many of the best Who stories, there aren’t really any winners. All of the survivors are damaged in one way or another. In some ways – not least the most obvious – Charley is well out of place here. Tellingly, it seems like the Doctor knows it too, and he’s plainly decided to stop giving her the chance to come clean.

Obviously you can’t really come to this story cold – you do need to have heard the preceding stories in the arc. That counts against The Raincloud Man, but there’s still plenty to recommend it. (Personally I still struggle a bit with Who stories set in modern times; I’d much rather see either historicals or far-future tales) Menzies’s sarky humour is welcome, and Robson’s concepts are astounding. If there’s any other fault to mention, it’s that a couple of the guest characters (even, surprisingly, the Raincloud Man himself) struggle to make their presence felt against the richness of the script.
****½

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