blogger_who (blogger_who) wrote,

Doctor Who: The Fourth Doctor Adventures 3.06 - Destroy the Infinite

Blurb: The colony planet Delafoss is occupied by the army of a rapacious alien force known only as the Eminence. These slave armies of terrified humans are commanded by the dreaded Infinite Warriors - impervious to most forms of firepower, voices like icy death.

The Doctor and Leela arrive expecting to find Earth’s most successful, unspoiled colony. Instead, they are confronted by a planet choked by industrialization. And at the heart of it all, the construction of something that the Eminence intends will wipe out all human resistance once and for all.

For the first time in his life, the Doctor confronts the Eminence… and things will never be quite the same again.

Format: Full-cast audio drama starring Tom Baker and Louise Jameson published by Big Finish Productions and released June 2014.

Setting: The planet Delafoss, time unknown but likely sometime in the 23rd century. Humanity is capable of space flight and has quite a few colony worlds. We know that Earth is the center of human political and military power. Yet, alien life forms other than the Eminence are never mentioned and the Eminence seem to only be threatening humanity. No other race is mentioned by either side. This would seem to indicate a time pre-empire but some time after Earth has recovered from the Dalek invasion. I would suggest 2277 as a possible date.

Continuity: This story takes place between The Talons of Weng-Chiang and The Horror of Fang Rock and after the audio story Last of the Colophon. Leela references the face of Xoannon (see The Face of Evil).

Canonicity Quotient: The Eminence seems to be such a gigantic threat that it would have been mentioned before. Even with the Doctor's spotty history you would think that he'd know of a war that the humans have been fighting for 50+ years in their early days of space exploration. I can just about believe it through especially as very few stories seem to take place in the 23rd century and the Doctor's knowledge does always have bizarre gaps. 0.99

Discussion: As intriguing titles go, Destroy the Infinite is a pretty good one. "How does one go about destroying the infinite?" I wondered. In the writer's notes on the CD, Nick Briggs mentioned that new foe The Eminence would be a kind of cosmic religious cult. Putting those ideas together it seemed that either the Eminence worshiped infinity so someone needed to destroy it to hurt them or that the Eminence's religion motivated them to try and destroy the infinite. It sounded like an interesting concept and I couldn't wait to hear how it would be pulled off conceptually. While so far Nick Briggs' Fourth Doctor Adventures had been very hit or miss with me, I knew that he was capable of greater work and hoped that this would be an excellent story. I was also interested in learning more about the Eminence, since I knew that they'd be a foe throughout the Big Finish range for some time to come.

I might as well get it on front street that the title was one of the most horribly misleading things that I've ever heard. Seriously, Nick? You give a story that awesome of a title and then you make it so mundane by just making it a ship that's called The Infinite? While this doesn't kill the entire story it is a massive strike against it. The story itself borrows heavily from the World War 2 films, which Nick Briggs admits was a strong influence in writing the story. I also have to say that it reminded me a lot of Star Wars with the gigantic, implacable foe taken down by small fighters, which they had thought to be beneath their notice. The Eminence is an interesting enough concept but it is left frustratingly vague throughout the story. They appear to be creatures of gas with some limited form of teleportation. They convert humans into their infinite warriors who eschew their old life and wish to live in accord with the Eminence's purpose. Yet the purpose if left frustratingly vague. Briggs describes them as a religion but we aren't told what they worship and although their warriors seem to act like the Inquisition they follow the forms without seeming to have any reasoning behind it.

I've heard from some that this story really suffers from the fact that the Eminence have appeared in Big Finish's Main Range and their Eighth Doctor Adventures already. The Doctor recognizes them and even refers to this adventure. Apparently this story doesn't really give any new details beyond what those stories mention, so it's not really all that exciting. It seems like this was a particular marketing snafu on Big Finish's part. While I can understand that point of view I can say that if you encounter the Eminence first through this story then you shouldn't have any of those issues. There's no need to have heard any of those stories that came out first but happen later and it seems that this is the Eminence's first encounter with The Doctor as well so it's not like there are references by them to their meeting later Doctors earlier in their own timeline. I've also heard this story compared to Best of Both Worlds with the Doctor taken over by The Eminence and turned into an Infinite Warrior, but let's be fair here. That's one of the most ridiculous parts of this story and one of the aspects that doesn't really work. The Best of Both Worlds worked because everything was set up so that they could have easily disposed of Picard when the season returned and continued the show with Riker as the captain and Shelby as his first officer. At the time it was really impossible to tell what would happen. If you've ever heard Terrence Dicks talk about writing The Five Doctors you know that he thinks that it improved things when Tom backed out because no one would ever believe that the Fourth Doctor was ever taken over by Borusa. When the man has been able to resist the mental influence of Sutekh himself you stop buying that someone could actually mentally dominate him. So when the Doctor shows up here as supposedly an Infinite Warrior I just yawn and move on. What I will say sets this one apart from other story in the same vein is the ending. The Doctor talks to Leela about why he doesn't want to celebrate the victory. He feels the loss of lives on both sides of the war and feels that a giant celebration with himself in the place of honor is a bit inappropriate. Yet, he doesn't feel like keeping others from celebrating if they need it. I really liked the weight that this put on the Doctor as he considers the bigger picture but doesn't make him dogmatic or forcing his opinion on others. After all, partying and release are kind of important for those involved with war to alleviate their nerves and keep them from burn out. I do lament that this opportunity wasn't used to call back to the earlier differences of opinion between the Doctor and Leela in this season. It seems like if any time was the right time to do so it would have been here, but the scene is good enough on its own so I won't lament the abandonment of that subplot to much here.

The production on this one was a bit uneven. Tom was his normally excellent self in episode one but once we get to episode two and he's passing himself off as an infinite warrior I kept imagining him talking with rolling his eyes up into the back of his head like he did in the Armageddon Factor. It's such a faux zombie way of talking. I don't think that Tom can ever convince that he's mentally controlled. Once again Louise Jameson shines throughout this story though. Briggs gives her a lot to do and her pluck, courage, and belief in the Doctor is what gives the humans their plan to finally get a victory on The Eminence. I love how the very British culture that she's run into has no idea what to do with an assertive, barely dressed woman and I also like how she ends up basically running the place. Ian Hallard also does a nice job with the character of Davent, showing the horror of being forced into becoming an Infinite Warrior and being forced to turn your back on the people and ideals that meant everything to you. David Sibley also does a nice job as The Eminence. My mind naturally goes to those Doctor Who menaces that have been identified as the Great Old Ones such as The Animus or The Great Intelligence. Sibley's performance goes a completely different direction but also conveys the sense of an intelligence that expects to dominate your mind. The rest are ok but nothing spectacular. The officers in the military in particular start verging a little to close to farce for my tastes. They're so very over-the-top WW2 era British officer types that one imagines them all looking at each other during the recordings and giving great big winks. It doesn't say a whole lot that after looking at the cast list I can't even remember specifically who was who in the rest of the cast. The music is excellent but the Briggs productions tend to have good music that feels like it was composed by Dudley Simpson in the early days of the Tom Baker era.

Final Rating: 7/10

Recommendation: Destroy the Infinite isn't going to win any awards for being avant garde, but not every story needs to. It's an exciting adventure yarn telling a tale about a chronically defeated underdog facing back against the oppressive regime. It also introduces a new enemy that will be shaking things up for a while at Big Finish. I recommend listening to it.
Tags: armageddon factor, audio drama, destroy the infinite, doctor who, face of evil, fourth doctor, fourth doctor adventures, horror of fang rock, last of the colophon, leela, louise jameson, nicholas briggs, season 14b, talons of weng-chiang, tom baker

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