October 16th, 2013

oncoming storm

Doctor Who: The Lost Stories 3.07 - The Masters of Luxor

Rewritten from material that I originally posted 5/10/13 on another forum:

Blurb: The TARDIS is drawn to a mysterious signal emanating from a seemingly dead world. Trapped within a crystalline structure, the Doctor and his friends inadvertently wake a vast army of robots that have lain dormant for many, many years. Waiting… for the Masters of Luxor.

The Perfect One wants to become more than just a mockery of a man, and will stop at nothing to achieve it. But will the cost prove too great?

The travelers are about to uncover a horrifying tragedy. A tragedy that threatens to engulf them all.

Format: Limited-cast audio drama with narration. Adapted from an unmade television script.

Setting: An unnamed planet somewhere in the Empire of Luxor. Published by Big Finish Productions and released August 2012.

Continuity: This story is set between Farewell Great Macedon and Keys of Marinus (see Farewell Great Macedon). Several references are made in this story to Farewell Great Macedon indicating that this was their adventure immediately previous to this one. Barbara also mentions the Emerald Sea on Fragrance indicating that that story had happened at some point in the past.

Canonicity Quotient: Very few links exist in this story, so it is difficult for it to contradict anything. References are made to Fragrance and having been to Babylon and meeting Alexander. However, none of the controversial events in Farewell Great Macedon are mentioned. There is a bit of a characterization issue with the Doctor saying "God be with you" so often to Tabon, but other than that this fits in with the established canon, perfectly. 0.95

Discussion: It's odd. In the first three seasons I usually prefer the historicals to the science fiction stories. It seems like they have more drama and tend to have aged better. Yet with these Lost Stories I have flip-flopped. I was not a big fan of Farewell Great Macedon but I greatly enjoyed the Masters of Luxor.

Much of the reason is likely that this seems in many ways to be a more polished production. The creative team at BF seem to have taken many of the fan comments on board. The switches between narration and dialog are much less here. There's a better "division of labor" between the three actors meaning that Russell just plays Ian and the Doctor and Ford just plays Susan and Barbara. Joe Kloska rounds out the cast playing all the other roles. It also helps that there are less roles in total and it also helps that Kloska is playing characters that are all related, so it makes sense that they would sound similar. The sound effects though keep the Derivitrons from sounding to much like the Perfect One and Kloska himself makes Tabon sounds like a different character. The editing seems to be more on target this time and the script feels more like a finished product than Macedon and until the very end of the story seems to be something that mostly fits the characters as they were portrayed on screen. It is strange that Robinson feels that Christian elements should be removed from a modern production (seeing as how we all know Barbara and Ian are from the 1960's so it wouldn't be all that strange) but then all the "God be with you" at the end with the Doctor seems as strange and out of place as the references to heaven in Macedon. I'm not sure why a partial edit was made but for the most part the editing here reminds me of the same man who wrote the excellent novelization of The Edge of Destruction. The story is fleshed out and made to work with modern continuity.

The only downside about the production for me was the music. Whereas Macedon's music felt like something that would be performed in the 60's, the ever present violin music in Luxor just seemed intrusive and not at all like something that we would have heard on the series.

The story itself is very interesting. It goes somewhat deeper than most of the sci-if of the time. The Daleks has some meat to it, being a story about racism but many of the other Who stories would simply be adventures in science fiction environment. Luxor talks about what it means to be human through the idea of robots trying to "evolve" into a human being. Yes its the typical stuff of sci-fi these days but back in 1963 this was something that only avid readers of Asimov might have been familiar with. I am curious why this story was rejected. I'm wondering if it had to do with Newman's edict that there would be no BEM's and that he hated things where you could tell that the robots and aliens were just men in suits. This story by necessity required humanesque robots and that might have been unpalatable at the time. The other possibility is that they felt that the philosophy of the story was a bit to deep for the intended teenage audience.

The regulars of course are not perfectly fleshed out. They seem particularly hard and nasty on the Perfect One whose ambition is at least sympathetic. Of course he did not treat them particularly well either but I imagine that a finished version of the story would likely mollified some of their actions and made the ending more of a tragedy.

I love the early elements of exploration and discovery in this story. It reminds me so much of what was fun in early Doctor Who. The action seems well paced until episode 6 which seems to be the longest countdown to destruction that any show has ever had. There's no way to maintain the tension throughout the time allotted. I understand that some stuff was cut from that episode which explains the lag but I wish something had been done to even the pacing out so I didn't feel like I was waiting for a whole episode for an inevitable conclusion that I knew was going to be reached at the beginning.

I do wonder how this story would have ever been realized on a BBC budget. I imagine the MK1's looking like the White Robots in The Mind Robber even though even those should look more human than that. I imagine the Derivatrons looking like the Robots of Death but I really doubt that they would have looked anything like that in the 60's.

Ah well, in the end I feel this was a fascinating story but really wish it'd been more of a straight from the script adaptation and this was just relegated to an Unbound kind of universe so we could have heard it as Coburn wanted it but at least if they're going to slot it into established continuity this seemed like a more serious taken than Macedon.

Final Rating: 8/10

Recomendation: A philosophical and psychological thriller that's a real treat for any fans of hard sci-fi, Masters of Luxor would have been an incredible addition to Doctor Who if it had ever made it to the screen. This audio is a very well made production and is able to hold the interest for almost the entire epic-length 6-episode run-time. It's only for that small downturn at the end that this goes down from a 9 to an 8. I definitely recommend that anyone listen to this.