Big Finish Folly, Part 155 – Nocturne, by Dan Abnett
On the human colony planet Nocturne, there is suffering and blight, tragic symptoms of an ages-old war. Never the less, Nocturne is also one of the Doctor’s favourite places in all of time and space, because it is here that a late, great flowering of human art – the High Renaissance – is taking place.
He has been back here many times. It is a place of music and art which he finds inspirational and uplifting. It is a place he wants to share with Ace and Hex. It’s always been a safe haven for him, a world of friends and laughter.
But with strict Martial Law imposed on the front-line city, and the brutal scourge of interstellar warfare vicing the system, how safe can anyone really be?
There is a note of death in the wild, midnight wind…
Dan Abnett, of course, was the writer of The Harvest, a few episodes back. A fast-moving introduction to Hex, revitalising the old dynamic, doing something fresh with the Cybermen, and having a good old pop at modern bureaucracy. Quite enjoyable, all round, though naturally I’m not the sort of person who actually checks back and makes certain that’s what I said first time around. Take me as you find me, folks. Opinions may change on a day to day basis.
I changed my mind halfway through Nocturne, for example. I started off thinking it was a horrible drag, a bit of a clock-ticker, difficult to get into. A world that seemed a cross between Venice and Metropolis, an enclave and haven for artists and musicians, stuck on the fringes of a near-eternal war. It took a couple of episodes for me to really get into the swing of things. And then Abnett gives Will Alloran (played by Paul David-Gough) a fantastic speech on the horrors of war and suddenly I’m listening again. Never mind the sound-based monster (yes, another one of those), or the “Familiars” that aren’t quite the same as the Vocs in The Robots of Death but could quite conceivably be, this is the real heart of Nocturne.
Abnett no sooner gives us this emotional heart than he proceeds to rip it from Nocturne’s chest and takes us back into monster-baiting territory again for the last episode, but by this time at least everything has speeded back up. And at least we’re finally off-Earth, away from the pull of The Forge. It could have been one of several different stories, from the elements that Abnett has to play with, but at least it isn’t a duff one.