Rewritten from material that I originally posted 8/9/13 on another forum.
Blurb: The TARDIS lands in the city of Tromesis on Earth – but it’s a world far from the one that the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe recognize.
The buildings are ruined, the streets deserted. And against the devastation they see a ghostly mirror image of another place – the city as it was before disaster hit.
People vanish here, and huge metal birds attack from the sky.
Can the Doctor find the future, in a place that doesn’t have one?
Format: Limited-cast audio drama, a Companion Chronicle from the point-of-view of Jamie McCrimmon. Published by Big Finish Productions and released May of 2013.
Setting: Earth: Tromesis, Switzerland sometime far enough in the future that Earth has gone back down to 21st century levels of technology and is cut off from the wider galactic culture. No context is given for when and why Jamie narrates this story.
Continuity: This story takes place between The Space Pirates and the War Games. Although the exact chronological placement is not given by the story, it is definitely a later story for Jamie and fits in with the development that he's given in the Jigsaw War and The Glorious Revolution. A story where Jamie's actions saves the day seems like a nice coda to occur just before The War Games. Jamie remembers seeing the Earth from the moon (see The Moonbase). Zoe talks about the Wheel's W-3 laser (see The Wheel in Space).
Canonicity Quotient: As far as I can tell, nothing in this story breaks with established continuity. 1.00
Discussion: The Apocalypse Mirror was one of the last few 2nd Doctor Companion Chronicles that I listened to. After being very impressed both with Fraser Hines and with the direction that some of the audios took (I'm looking at you, Jigsaw War) and being fascinated by the trailer for this story I was very eager to hear what it would offer.
As always, I think that special praise must be given for Fraser's performance as the 2nd Doctor. The inflections that he puts into the voice are just about perfect now that he's had years to hone his performance. Wendy Padbury also does a wonderful job as Zoe again. While she isn't as pitch perfect for her younger self as Anneke Willis she still does a passable job at sounding younger again and its a joy listening to her being the young, perky computer that she was in the 60's. I also really liked that Eddie Robson "gets it" and had her being a bit put off by technology ahead of her time. Most writers seem to think that a genius would be able to pick up any technology and instantly work it but even if you took a genius like Thomas Jefferson and placed him in our time you'd have to take time to explain the concepts and functions of our technology before he could work it. He might pick it up quickly but not instantly. It was nice to have that nod which made the story feel a lot more "real". The other thing that I really liked was the Doctor playing hacky-sack and having him make a mistake cause a fault in the TARDIS that causes them to land where they land. It's a very humorous scene that I can actually see playing out on the show.
Unfortunately, I can't be so positive about the rest of the story. We're expected to believe that because people get unfomfortable when their friends start talking about how bright and cheerful the things that they see are, they all keep away to such a degree that they never once see someone physically vanish into thin air? Yet, we're lead to believe that the population of the two cities is almost the same so millions of people have disappeared but no one ever has actually seen it happen? Also the central conceit of the story that if you clap if you believe in fairies somehow you can be transported to a better world just falls flat with me. They make it sound as if the better world existed just because they were able to will it into being yet if that's the case, where does the colossal amount of energy come from for two coexistant cities? ALso how is the other world better when it would have started out completely depopulated? There's just something that feels wrong about the 2nd city's origin. When we find out that the second city is only in such a poor shape because all the best and brightest have been siphoned off into the second city it even makes the whole idea of this being some sort of dystopia kind of fall apart. Placing an external threat as the main conflict makes it even worse. If we'd somehow had a conflict with someone with a sinister purpose in the dystopian world some of the themes at work here may have had some expression. Instead we really only get preached to at the end where the Doctor basically says that positive thinking brings results but if people ever go back to being negative they'll get their bad world in the end. While I don't disagree necessarily with those sentiments I do think it would have been better to show that through the story rather than with dialog at the end.
I also have issues with the idea that somehow if the city is more than 50% "real" that they can now blow up the meteor whereas at 49.9% they couldn't. Isn't the missile only half solid? You'd think they'd need to almost completely depopulate the other city to make it work. Then at the end, the Doctor doesn't even try to fix the central issue. The cities being separated in this manner can't be a good thing and what happens when someone tries to leave the city? I imagine they'd be perceived as ghosts to anyone in the outside world, only being half substantial. Instead the Doctor blythely leaves them to it messing with the very fabric of reality without a care in the world.
It's also been said before but I think it needs to be said again. Although Fraser is great as the Doctor and Jamie he does not need to do 95% of the talking in the audio. After a while his voices start sounding very same-y. Wendy was great but Zoe had very little to say in this story. I think that it would have been better if they'd had one of the rebbles as the other voice, probably Mrs Oakley. Then maybe more of the talking would have been divided between the two of them to make the audio a little more even.
And I know that its somewhat petty but the hawkers were a complete disappointment. Set up as some sort of threat they're really just glorified transportation vessels that can be destroyed with rusty swords. I felt that was a real letdown for what was kind of a neat visual concept.
Final Rating: 6/10
Recommendation: Decidedly average. The Apocalypse Mirror flirts with some really interesting themes dealing with the two versions of the 60's, the one where we saw the future as a golden age and the one where we thought it would be completely horrible, yet it doesn't really use them to good effect. The plot seems to have been made up in a hurry and rather than weaving the themes into the narrative we get a hasty preaching session at the end to explain us what the moral of the story was. It's not bad but it's definitely something you can skip.