Loched Up

Big Finish Folly, Part 116 – Wirrn Isle, by William Gallagher

Wirrn IsleWhile visiting the recolonised Earth, Flip accidentally triggers a transmat from Nerva City to a house on the frozen and desolate shores of Loch Lomond. There, Roger and Veronica Buchman are setting up home for the second time, haunted by the loss of their son Iron fifteen years ago. But though Iron might be dead, it appears that he is not gone entirely – a fact that Roger is all too aware of. And under the icy loch, frozen for centuries, lie the Wirrn. They’ve been waiting for Roger too…

The “base under siege” story is an old standby, but this is a somewhat fresh take on that trope, as can be seen from the appearance of the microlite on the cover. Cold, outdoors, Scotland, and frozen-over Wirrn – it’s a good mix. And once again – having been shot dead in the previous story – Flip is right at the heart of the action. While the Doctor is earthbound, snowbound, trying to uncover Roger’s motivations for returning to the loch at the same time as keeping Veronica from doing something rash, Flip is the one who volunteers to take the family’s old microlite out over the ice to the transmat relay station. As in The Fourth Wall, she’s in real peril, and the sort of danger that TV companions rarely get themselves into – the microlite crashes and Flip is forced to contend with broken ribs and open wounds as well as a stalkery voice on the radio. You can’t help but be reminded that she’s already died once – as she crawls across the ice, bleeding, with only a malevolent voice to accompany her, it could easily happen again…

For all that she doesn’t die this time around (hopefully not a spoiler!), this is still a dark and twisted story, even without the Wirrn in the mix. This script is all about relationships, abandonment, and desperate attempts to bring the past back to life. Miscommunication and lack of communication causes problems galore and precipitates an absolute massacre at Nerva City, just as humanity is celebrating a somewhat rehashed version of the Olympiad.

You really get the impression that this is humanity on a shoestring, humanity on the verge of extinction – just as it was back in the Ark in Space, but even more so given that Earth’s environment is now so hostile. The Wirrn aren’t predators as such, but they could tip the fragile balance. Indeed, the Nerva City massacre could just be another “audio event” but that it comes on the back of Flip’s desperate survival bid. It could easily have been her.

Of the three plays in this trilogy set, this is the stand-out for me. From Iron’s creepy stalking of Flip to the climactic transmat battle, Gallagher’s script keeps the listener on the edge of their seat. It’s reminiscent of Hinchcliffe-era terror far more than normal Sixth Doctor fare, but that’s a good thing.
*****

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