Big Finish Folly, Part 150 – Dreamtime, by Simon A Forward
The Dreamtime is living Time. The Dreaming is living myth.
A city travels the stars, inhabited by stone ghosts. At its heart, an ancient remembrance of Earth. Mythical creatures stalk the streets and alien visitors have come in search of trade. But there is nothing to trade. There is only fear. And death. And the stone ghosts.
For Hex’s first trip in the TARDIS, it’s about the strangest place he could have imagined. Weird and very far from wonderful. Adjustment to his new life could prove tough. But he will have to adjust and do more, just to stay alive, and Ace will have to be his guide through this lost city of shadows and predatory dreams. And the Doctor is the first to go missing.
The Doctor has crossed into the Dreamtime.
I’ve said it before, I’ve no doubt I’ll say it again – Doctor Who is the perfect canvas on which to go exploring some very big ideas. You can do almost anything. You can go pretty much everywhere. And you don’t have to restrict yourself to Anglo-American ideas of the future or the past. Yet it isn’t all that often that Doctor Who actually explores “other” cultures with any degree of depth or sympathy. Forget the Daleks, Cybermen and Sontarans for a minute – strong reflections of humanity’s inhumanity though they are, they’re not relevant here – and think instead of the Who episodes that explore, educate and challenge the Tardis crew. As far back as Marco Polo and The Aztecs, Doctor Who has been doing that, looking at different parts of the world. One place they haven’t been before – excluding Tegan, of course – is Australia. Or, more specifically, native Australian mythos.
Of course, like any other brief exploration of a different culture, it can only ever skim the surface, but Simon A Forward’s script is a pretty bold one that encourages the listener to make some intuitive leaps in the dark and follow the adventure without too many explanations of unfamiliar terminology. Beginning with Ayers Rock in space – and there’s a concept and a half! – Dreamtime introduces mercenary traders and Dream Commandos in short order before catapulting the Doctor back through time and space to the inciting incident to try to reason with the shaman who has been standing firm against the forced resettlement of his people.
It’s a lot to take in. Somehow Dreamtime makes us sympathetic to both sides without condoning or condemning either one. That’s a good trick, especially when you consider that there’s not really a “bad guy”/villain of the regular kind in the story. Everybody has their own motivations, everybody has their own agendas, but nobody is definitively evil. Does it make Dreamtime boring? No, not at all. There’s the regular problem of interpreting slightly over-processed alien voices, amongst a loud sound design, but that’s always going to be an issue with these audio plays. What makes it for me is that it’s not part of an arc, not part of a Forge-related plot like so much of Big Finish’s output around the Hex adventures. Dreamtime happily stands on its own.