blogger_who (blogger_who) wrote,

Doctor Who: The Companion Chronicles 5.10 - The Sentinels of the New Dawn

Blurb: Some time after leaving UNIT, Liz Shaw calls the Doctor to Cambridge University, where scientists are experimenting with time dilation. A device hurls them to the year 2014, and a meeting with Richard Beauregard, heir to the Beauregard estate.

But there’s something rotten at the core of this family… The seeds of a political movement that believes in a new world order.

The Sentinels of the New Dawn are stirring. And their malign influence will be felt for centuries to come…

Format: Limited-cast audio drama, a Companion Chronicle from the point-of-view of Dr. Elizabeth Shaw. Published by Big Finish Productions and released April of 2011.

Setting: Earth: Cambridge, United Kingdom. UNIT dating makes the precise chronological placement of this story iffy but it's during the second year that the Doctor is with UNIT, which I would place in 1971. The Doctor and Liz also travel in time to the same location in 2014. Liz narrates the story from her home in 2011.

Continuity: This story takes place between Terror of the Autons and The Mind of Evil. The exact placement in season 8 is not clear. However, Liz states that even though the Doctor has a new assistant "he is not enamored with her". I have to imagine that is very early in their relationship, which is why I pick this gap. Liz mentions the Silurians (see The Silurians), the Mim (see The Shadow of the Past), and Mars Probe 7 incident (see The Ambassadors of Death). She also mentions how she left the Doctor abruptly (see The Scales of Injustice).

Canonicity Quotient: The story ignores the Devil Goblins from Neptune and the fact that Liz has seen the Doctor sporadically since officially leaving as his assistant at UNIT. I also find it strange to believe that he'd tell Liz that he wasn't enamored of Jo. Although she was a bit clumsy in Terror of the Autons it just doesn't seem to be the kind of thing that the Doctor would say about her. Otherwise this fits in well enough with the era. 0.94

Discussion: The Sentinels of the New Dawn is a story that I really really wanted to like. It's a Liz Shaw story and there are few enough of those already with little hope of getting more as Caroline John based away a couple of years ago. The idea of a story about what happened to Liz after she left the Doctor is even more intriguing. It sounded like a great way to get some meat on the character. The framing sequence creates interest by talking about a secret from the UNIT archives that Liz would need to fill in the gaps for. I also really loved the description as Liz laid out the preface of her story and her hesitance and reactions to seeing the Doctor again. It was all great and set up and read so wonderfully by Caroline John.

Unfortunately, the rest of the story happened. It really is a stale, pile of dreck. We've got a secret society that wants to plunge the world back into a feudal society and talk about Adolph Hitler favorably. Honestly? It might have helped if we had anything like a believable performance to go with it, but Duncan Wisbey is so over-the-top as a posh trust-fund brat named Beauregard that it's hard to take anything that he says seriously. This evil society that will stop at nothing also wants the Doctor and Liz to enhance their time travel capabilities but all that they have to do is put up mild resistance and then these loons try to outright kill them? Really?! Where will your time travel plans be then? Yet, then we also learn that they've been making their own time machines anyway. So, if they have multiple time machines why don't they just tell some of their men to wait 3 years and turn the machine on? Then in their time they turn their machines on. Then they'd have windows 3 years into the future. It seems like the plot gets made up as the story roles on with no thought back to what originally set it up. The Helidromus seems to be an artifact from another story with absolutely nothing to do with this one. A story about political fanatics getting ahold of time travel is one thing but then throwing in a strange bird-man is another. How it fits in as a mascot is never explained and its inclusion takes away valuable time from a two-parter companion chronicle and just appears to be there as filler and a means for a quick resolution because of all the wasted time. Then we're also supposed to believe that Liz just spills her guts to someone about something that she'd wanted to keep hidden without any checks? I give her a bit more credit than that. Then the resolution just sputters out. We have no more insights into Liz, just the fact that she gets her closure with the Doctor narrated instead of performed and her guilt over possibly driving a colleague over the edge. The story ends and it seems like a real waste of what the Companion Chronicles are supposed to be about - insights from the pov of these characters.

Soundwise this is a decent enough story. Wisbey also does a far better job as the UNIT officer. We also have some nice sounds of things as far ranging as birdsong to the explosive effect of two time machines intersecting to create a wormhole. The immersiveness of the soundscape is complete and helps to bring you into the story. Caroline John is also fantastic in this story. Her Pertwee isn't as good as Katy Manning's but I really think that the respect and love that she had for the man come through in the performance. It's not the caricature that we get with Richard Franklin and it's quite good. She's also a fantastic narrator giving everything the proper timing and emphasis. It's a real shame that she won't be doing more of these for years to come.

Final Rating: 6/10

Recommendation: The Sentinels of the New Dawn is a story that starts out as a character study and a story that would have fit in nicely in the Pertwee era. Unfortunately it meanders in the second episode suddenly coming up with new plot threads that don't make sense based on what we already know or that seem to have nothing to do with the story other than pad the plot. If anything you should listen to it just to hear more of Caroline John's wonderful narration and if you like Liz you probably should listen to it, but this one is definitely skipable.
Tags: ambassadors of death, audio drama, caroline john, companion chronicles, devil goblines from neptune, doctor who, liz shaw, mind of evil, paul finch, scales of injustice, season 8, sentinels of the new dawn, shadow of the past, silurians, terror of the autons, third doctor

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