Big Finish Folly, Part 106 – Blue Forgotten Planet, by Nicholas Briggs
It’s all come to this. Mila’s stolen opportunity comes crashing down around her, Charley must make the hardest decisions of her life, and the Doctor must know the truth. The truth about both of them, the truth about the dying Earth, and the truth about the Viyrans too…
There’s such a thing as too much truth. And maybe some things really are best left forgotten…
Over the course of just three plays this particular storyline has barrelled through a whole thousand tons of classic Who continuity and Big Finish checkpoints. The scale and scope of what BF are doing is quite breathtaking: viruses that have spread across entire galaxies, a race of alien “doctors” that manipulate genetics for the sake of experiments, time paradox-savvy Daleks who know exactly which incarnation of the Doctor they have encountered this time, a network of Draconian imperial tombs high in orbit, where unded Emperors play chess against each other, a companion who has lived invisibly aboard the Tardis ever since the events of The Chase back in the Hartnell era… to say this is ambitious space opera is to understate the matter by quite some way.
This time around, the theme is memory and the reliability thereof. Also, the way we remember things and what we prefer to forget. On top of this, Nick Briggs has to delve into the veritable cat’s cradle of plot threads in this arc and draw out those that bring Charley’s story to a close in such a manner that the audience doesn’t smell a deus ex machina. Staying away from spoilers, I reckon he just about succeeds, though the end result relies heavily on the sort of overwrought tissue-wringing that nu-Who has made such a feature of. The Doctor is forced into a decision by Charley’s actions, a plot point that neatly deals with the oncoming paradox. Mila’s fate is left ambiguous, which I reckon was the best thing that could happen. It certainly makes Charley’s character that much more interesting, which again is a good thing as over this arc she has been by turns smug, knowing, irritating and whiney (and actually I liked her with McGann’s Doctor!) – defined as much by her paradoxical nature and knowledge of the Doctor as by anything else.
Meanwhile, the Viyrans. Grand space opera antagonists – you can’t quite call them villains as they’ve no actual interest in humanity other than as specimens. Interesting creations, even if the scope of their stories is a bit limited by their own self-definition. Michael Maloney continues to play them on just the right side of abstract and objective. The human characters thrash between rage, fear and hope and back again, stuck on their primitive blue forgotten world, almost as though they sense that they are only a plot device behind Mila’s machinations. So unimportant are they in fact, that one of them actually dies aboard the Tardis without the Doctor really taking too much notice of the fact.
So how do I review something with so much narrative detail that it cannot possibly stand alone? It’s certainly a good story, and especially in the final episode when Charley comes clean at last, but it’s difficult to enjoy it as much as, say, I enjoyed Paper Cuts.