blogger_who (blogger_who) wrote,

Doctor Who: The Companion Chronicles 3.02 - The Great Space Elevator

Rewritten from material that I originally posted 6/10/13 on another forum.

Blurb: The Great Space Elevator is a marvel of human engineering; a transit tube stretching from the equator up to a space station held in geosynchronous orbit.

When the TARDIS lands in Sumatra in the future, the Second Doctor, Jamie and Victoria are captured by guards just as the station loses power. Together with Security Officer Tara Kerley, the three travellers take a one-way trip on the elevator to fix the problem, and find themselves confronted by a powerful alien force that threatens to wreak chaos on Earth…

Format: Limited-cast audio drama, a Companion Chronicle from the point-of-view of Victoria Waterfield. Published by Big Finish Productions and released August of 2008.

Setting: Earth: Sumatra, Indonesia, time unknown (this is clearly pre-Moonbase, so I'd suggest a date of somewhere between 2030 and 2050, so I've been thinking 2045). Victoria narrates this story from many years after she left the TARDIS crew.

Continuity: This story takes place between The Ice Warriors and The Enemy of the World. No indication is to given as to when this occurs with respect to other stories set within this gap. Vicotoria mentions that they've previously been on Telos (see Tomb of the Cybermen). Jamie mentions the man on the moon (see The Moonbase). Victoria thinks that sometimes the Doctor reminds her of her father, Edward Waterfield (see Evil of the Daleks). This story has lots of nods to staples of the Troughton era. There's a base under siege from an alien threat, a weather control station, and a foam machine.

Canonicity Quotient: Although I've placed the story between the Ice Warriors and The Enemy of the World, it's clear from the dialog that Morris' intention was to place it between Tomb of the Cybermen and The Abominable Snowmen. Unfortunately there's no gap between those stories. Victoria should have told Tara that they'd just come from England since the earliest gap for this TARDIS team is between The Ice Warriors and The Enemy of the World. Also, Victoria being happily married with grandchildren flies in the face of the entirety of the novel Downtime, which has Victoria possessed as the Great Intelligence and planning a 3rd Yeti invasion. 0.80

Discussion: Wonderful! It was like finding a lost season 5 story. I shouldn't be surprised. Jonathan Morris was so good at evoking the best of season 17 in Festival of Death (no mean feat since there isn't much good in season 17!) that I should have known that he could effortlessly recreate season 5 and here he did. We have weather control, a remote outpost terrorized by an alien menace, a commander that refuses to accept that something bad is happening, we have real science, and I admit it, I laughed when the Troughton foam machine started up. This is a story that I can visualize in pure black and white goodness. Would this have gotten old if Big Finish did it again and again? Sure, but for the first season 5 CC this was a welcome story, reminding us of all the best in the season but in a much more succinct package (imagine this as a 6 parter and you'll know why season 5 dragged so). Since this is her story, we even have Victoria trying to be brave and showing the kind of pluck and courage that she wouldn't show in the series until Fury from the Deep.

I like the idea of the space elevator as a setting. Its one of those crazy sci-fi ideas that would never work in the real world - even if its ever found to be technically possible who wants a giant structure that if it were ever compromised would reign death and destruction across the entire circumference of the Earth? I also really liked the science lesson about electricity. It was very in keeping with the 60's style even if by season 5 Who was not trying to be particularly educational.

As others have said, and I hate to say it, the production is most let down by Deborah Watling herself. While many other productions have been saved by the voice actors or have had an already good story that has been elevated to excellent by the performances, Watling feels like she isn't really into her character. There are things that aren't her fault such as her voice has changed considerably since 1967 in a way that it hasn't for some of her colleagues like Anneke Wills and Fraser Hines. But the lack of energy and conviction, the lack of trying to evoke the different characters gives the story less of an impact then it would have otherwise. I really liked Helen Goldwyn as Tara but since her character is sidelined for most of episode 2 Watling has to carry the entire thing herself and maybe that was an undue burden put on her by the production team as well. There are some great lines for Victoria, especially when she's entering space and here Watling does indeed put some of the sense of wonder into her voice as Victoria watches as she moves higher and higher into space.

There are my little nits, mostly about the continuity wars. Victoria is apparently a grandmother, which seems at odds with the events of Downtime, something I find extremely odd since IIRC Downtime was a Nick Briggs production. I suppose if Victoria got married almost immediately after that story and had a kid right away it is possible if she's narrating from a date farther in the future than the present but it kind of makes your head hurt thinking about it. I hope this is reconciled later.

Final Rating: 8/10

Recommendation: Wonderfully sublime, The Great Space Elevator will give you everything that was good in Season 5 in a mere fraction of the time. Jonathan Morris has become adept at telling suspenseful sci-fi stories and this one is no different. Exciting and nostalgic at the same time, The Great Space Elevator should hit you in your happy place and leave you wanting more. I definitely recommend it.
Tags: audio drama, companion chronicles, deborah watling, doctor who, enemy of the world, evil of the daleks, festival of death, great space elevator, ice warriors, jonathan morris, moonbase, season 5, second doctor, tomb of the cybermen, victoria waterfield

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