Big Finish Folly, Part 148 – The Rapture, by Joseph Lidster
Colditz ended with a bit of a flounce from Ace – sorry, Dorothy, as she now wants to be called. A bit of an odd note to end on, but obviously Big Finish were already trying to stretch the character and give Ace some development beyond the TV series. The New Adventures line of books saw her disagree with the Doctor and leave the Tardis completely, but at this point in the Main Range I doubt Big Finish were actively eyeing up that line for adaptation yet. So, the easiest way to give a character some depth, some anguish and ability to reflect… is to introduce some family, right?
Right. And The Rapture takes us to clubland Ibiza a decade down the line from Survival, where the Doctor hopes to give Ace a much-needed holiday. The last thing she expects is to run into her long-lost brother, who is also on the island to have a bangin’ time. Aliens disguising themselves as angelic DJs to harvest an army of clubbers to take back their world from invaders, well that’s pretty much par for the course, innit?
The first thing to note is that the 1990s haven’t come out of this play very well. I suspect older fans (older than I, at any rate) will feel much the same way about classic Who stories that tried to be topical way back when too. Even allowing for the fact that The Rapture was made in 2002, the Ibiza set pieces feel forced and slightly condescending (drugs are bad! Raves are brilliant!). It really doesn’t help that the DJ they brought on board for the voice of Ibiza was… Tony Blackburn. Back in ’97, ’98, I’m sure the daytime jocks wouldn’t have been seen dead doing club culture stuff. Big Finish were never going to get Pete Tong or anyone like that, but… Nicey? Really? It puts an anchor around the play almost immediately, tying it to a sense of place and time that creaks with the compounded horror of day-glo tie-dye and unhip-uncle bandwagoneering. The music designed for the play sounds all the more fake because of this, and takes away the credibility of Jude and Gabriel engineering their tunes as kind of pan-galactic pied pipers.
The other thing to note is that the plotting here feels seriously odd. We spend as much time in Caitriona’s point of view, whirling through trips and imminent breakdown, as we do exploring the dynamic between Ace and her brother Liam. The “angels”, who are going through post-traumatic experiences of their own, are of no help at all to her. The climax of part three feels like it ought to be very close to the end – and the actual end is, forgive the phrase, a total comedown. I personally found the treatment of mental health issues in the play a little problematic – the conflation of drugs, clubbing and depression and psychosis is skated over, lightly sketched (and in some ways a Doctor Who audio play can’t do more than sketch lightly – this isn’t a deep psychological examination) and as someone with experience of some of those issues I was a bit irritated by the directions taken.
In total? Hmm. Loud, dated, and prone to moments of incoherence and embarrassment. Much like your least favourite uncle.