Big Finish Folly, Part 134 – Flip-Flop, by Jonathan Morris
The year is 3090. The place is the colony world of Puxatornee. The alien Slithergees are a minority population, fearful of oppression by the world’s human inhabitants and yet somehow holding the balance of power. A dissident faction of humans is making life difficult for President Bailey, and she must stamp them out to appease the humble and oh-so-oppressed Slithergee. In particular, she must stamp out the Doctor and Mel. Which comes as news to them as they have only just arrived on Puxatornee. Or have they just left? Or is it even more complicated than that? This time there really are two sides to the story – and that’s not good news for anybody…
Beware: spoilers will happen below the cut.
In this story, the Slithergee, a race of alien refugees, were allowed to settle on
Puxatornee’s first moon back in 3060, a decision that has bothered President
Bailey and her deputy ever since, leading to ever more violent protests against
their piecemeal occupation of the world. All Bailey can try to do is appease the
Slithergee, giving way endlessly. Giving them the Doctor and Mel would help
In this story the Slithergee, a race of alien refugees, were annihilated when they
attempted to settle on Puxatornee’s first moon back in 3060. But that war cost the colony
dearly, and the world is no longer environmentally viable. President Mitchell makes ever more difficult
decisions regarding who will live and who must die, as he has been forced to do
since the assassination of President Bailey 30 years ago. The arrival of apparent Slithergee
spies, the Doctor and Mel, is forcing his hand towards the ultimate decision…
Listening to the two discs in this order shows the futility – and stupidity,
perhaps – of trying to alter the past. Dissidents Stewart and Reed are convinced
that assassinating Bailey back in their past will prevent the gradual erosion of
their own rights and give Puxatornee back to them. They’re right of course,
but the costs of that action are terrifyingly high.
Listening to the two discs in this order shows the futility – and stupidity, perhaps –
of trying to alter the past. Government agents Stewart and Reed
have been assigned to travel back and prevent Bailey’s assassination by Slithergee agents,
so that the apocalyptic war that has virtually destroyed Puxatornee can be avoided.
Surely there can’t be any harm in trying to negotiate with the aliens? They’re
not wrong, of course, but the consequences of that action might be
more than they can stomach.
As novel – and effective – as the storytelling device is, presenting us with a
mobius strip of time that Puxatornee will never escape, there are a couple of snags
and irritations in the plot. The Doctor’s character acts a little off at points, even
taking up a gun. Mel actually kills someone. The intricacies of the time loop are such
that there does have to be at least one info-dump per “story”. Jonathan Morris, in an
interview over on Joe Ford’s Docoho site, admits that as a script it is probably
better read than listened to.
But Morris also points out that the terrorists and the police are the same people,
mirror images of each other, each faction appalled by the atrocities of the other.
That’s a clever piece of work, and one left unstated for the listener to absorb.
It is a very experimental piece, ranking alongside Natural History of Fear
in its use (and abuse) of the forms of storytelling, and it probably won’t be
for everybody’s tastes.
The post title, by the way, is a lift of Roky Erickson’s song title, also covered by Julian Cope back in the early 1990s.