More States of Decay

Big Finish Folly, Part 29f – The Entropy Plague, by Jonathan Morris The Entropy PlagueE-Space is failing fast – the end is nigh. As the stars disappear and the universe goes cold and empty, the Doctor faces two urgent missions – to rescue Tegan, and to find a CVE that will return them all safely to N-Space. Fortunately, he can achieve both aims on the same planet – Apollyon. But it’s not going to be that easy. The Gang of Four aren’t the only ones who want to escape from E-Space, and every time the CVE is opened it destroys a little more of what time E-Space still has. Entropy cannot be denied… and this time, perhaps the Doctor himself will fall victim to it… Somehow I resisted the temptation to use the title “Entropy! Entropy! They’ve all got it Entropy!” And I bet you’re glad I did. This play marks not only the conclusion of this E-space trilogy but also – SPOILERS LIE BEYOND! TREAD NOT FURTHER YE THAT HAVE NOT FIRST LISTENED TO THE AUDIO! – yes, also, the end of the line for this latter incarnation of The Gang of Four. It doesn’t take much work to join the dots here and, indeed, the end has been foreshadowed for some time now. Ever since Prisoners of Fate, in fact. There’s a lot of work to do first, however, not least of which is reuniting Tegan with the rest of the crew after her abduction at the end of Equilibrium. That is achieved by the end of the first episode, by which time Jonathan Morris has set up the rest of his pieces – the CVE, the power and life energy drain of the apparatus that controls it, the desperate and amoral scientist, the faintest glimmers of hope that were offered at the end of Equilibrium. The gun is on the mantelpiece, and will be fired by the end of the third act. To keep us from worrying about other things, Morris focuses firmly on the “Stargate”-style portal that leads back to N-space, and the way it sucks energy and destroys E-space simply by existing. The scale of entropic decay and destruction is incredible, and can only be hinted at with lines about stars winking out. E-space’s survival is being measured in hours while the portal remains open. Of course, this is a Fifth Doctor play we’re talking about here, and nothing can be that simple. In common with Equilibrium – hell, in common with so many of the Fifth Doctor’s range, he’s a frustrated, guilty, almost powerless presence – in the face of approaching armageddon for E-space, there is nothing at all he can do. He must make hard choices – if the only way he can save his companions is by making use of the deaths of other people, then so be it. They were going to die anyway, but at least the Doctor can feel a bit more guilty about their deaths. He’s not the the only one feeling guilty either. Nyssa is a natural healer. She’s also a curious mixture of practicality and idealism. She’s spent years of her life struggling to find a cure to the Richters Plague; now, finally feeling her age as E-space collapses around her, she’s found another hopeless cause to defend. It’s an obvious way to end this trilogy, and an obvious move for Nyssa herself to make. A word or two about the narrative structure of the play. It is pretty clear early on what has happened to Nyssa, but having the tale narrated in hindsight by the surviving members of the Tardis crew somehow manages to make the most of the drama surrounding that climax. The Entropy Plague works as a sort of mutated Companion Chronicle, with small passages of narration speeding through parts of the story that might otherwise drag or bog down the pace. It’s jarring at first, and very artificial – almost “I’m going to go back in the Tardis and let Tegan tell the next episode!” – but it allows Morris to cram even more into the story than he might otherwise have done. Nyssa’s letter, never sent, that makes up the last part of the story, contains a few wonderful images too, not least of which is the idea of a gardener at the end of the universe (which might have been another post title). At the end of it, the titular plague that turns people into dust zombies is one flavour too many; without it, this would still have been a dramatic, satisfying, and wonderfully gripping end to this Fifth Doctor trilogy. ****¾ Buy it here


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