Blurb: The Point of Stillness. A place the Time Lords are forbidden to go. It cannot be drawn, it cannot be whispered, it cannot be thought. And yet somebody is very keen to reach it.
Deep within the TARDIS, something unusual is happening. One of the ship's oldest secrets is about to be revealed, and once it is, nothing will ever be the same again.
As danger materialises deep within the ship, spectral strangers lurk in the corridors and bizarre events flood the rooms, someone long-forgotten is ready to reappear. The Doctor and Leela are soon to discover that their home isn't quite the safe stronghold they thought.
Format: Full-cast audio drama starring Tom Baker and Louise Jameson published by Big Finish Productions and released July 2014.
Setting: The Point of Stillness, yet another point of no-time and no-space.
Continuity: This story takes place between The Talons of Weng-Chiang and The Horror of Fang Rock and after the audio story Destroy the Infinite. Marianna mentions the Horda (see The Face of Evil), dolls that move on their own (see Robots of Death), and giant rats (see The Talons of Weng-Chiang). Leela remembers her conversation with the Doctor about her father (see The Evil One). Block transfer computations are mentioned (see Logopolis).
Canonicity Quotient: There's so many little contradictions in this story that it's hard to wrap my hands around all of them. The Doctor intends to take Leela back to Gallifrey's past, which ignores the existence of the back-time field buffers, which prevent TARDISes from traveling into Gallifrey's own past (see Lungbarrow). One also wonders why Big Finish cannot keep track of their own continuity. Having just created Quadrigger Stoyn as someone who was decommissioning a "scrap" TARDIS how does that jive with this being a TARDIS that the Doctor stole from someone who was still living inside of it (see The Beginning)? It doesn't seem much like the Time Lords to just have the ship dismantled around her. You'd think that if they considered her to dangerous to live that they'd have killed Marianna and been done with it. There also seems something wrong with Marianna inventing the season 14 enemies that Leela and the Doctor encountered but strangely nothing else that the Doctor has encountered. I also don't buy that Greel just happened to find giant rats in the sewers and didn't create them himself. Otherwise, what explains the giant spider that the Doctor found as well? The difference between the Land of Fiction and the Point of Stillness seem nebulous, especially after The Crooked Man earlier this season established that the Land of Fiction is a pretty broad place that any imaginary character can inhabit, even imaginary friends. The Point of Stillness exists at the center of the universe, which makes me wonder why the Doctor wasn't worried about them walking around in the Point of Stillness in Terminus. 0.20
Discussion: There probably isn't a title that Big Finish has produced that has gained more anticipation than The Abandoned. Louise Jameson was about to join Ian Marter as the only two Doctor Who companions to write original Doctor Who fiction featuring their characters. Jameson had already proven herself as a strong director with Ghost in the Machine last year. With veteran writer Nigel Fairs on hand and a host of character points littered throughout the last season everyone felt that the story was in fairly safe hands. We all expected this to be a strong performer in the season.
One of my main fears going into this story was that Jameson would make it into The Leela Power Hour™. If you've ever seen "written by Christopher Judge" on a Stargate SG-1 episode you know what I mean. When Judge writes an episode suddenly the whole show becomes about how awesome Teal'c is, how he's the central character that solves all the problems, and how he's incredibly desirable to all the women. It's just to much. Thankfully, Jameson restrains herself. If I didn't know that she'd co-written this I would have had no clue from the way that the story is written. Leela is depicted much the same as she is in any other story. While I had hoped that this story would focus on her relationship with the Doctor and the stress that had been put on that relationship earlier in the season I will say that it was a very humble decision for Jameson to be given the writer's reigns and not use them to spotlight her own character.
The issue is that despite avoiding all of those pitfalls, this story fails in so many other ways. The story feels like a pastiche of stories that have gone before. The story is set entirely inside the TARDIS and involves the crew seeming to go mad. It's an obvious call-back to The Edge of Destruction. Yet, the reason why that story works is because the audience at that point knows the characters as well as they know each other. The claustrophobia and suspicion gives the whole thing an atmosphere that makes you genuinely wonder how they'll react. Here we know the Doctor and Leela really well, so when they act strange it just seems tedious and forced rather than genuine. Speaking of tedious, it seems like someone looked to one of Big Finish's worst stories for inspiration on this one. The imaginary characters are like the Jester from The Axis of Insanity. There's a lot of loud laughter without being genuinely funny. After two episodes of that you start to wonder why you're evening listening to the story. Then there's the revelation that Marianna is the previous owner of the TARDIS. Yet, it doesn't really seem to matter as that familiarity doesn't seem to give her any advantage or anything other than excuse for why she's there with the Doctor and Leela in the first place. Of course, Big Finish had already given us something like this with Quadrigger Stoyn in the story The Beginning. Although he wasn't technically the TARDIS' owner, he was effectively that. It kept Marianna from really feeling like anything important. It seems odd to me that Big Finish even felt the need to talk about "who" the TARDIS belonged to before the Doctor. I always assumed that a TARDIS was assigned to someone for a mission and that they were just owned by the High Council who sent off Time Lords on authorized missions. I never really thought of them like how a person owns a car and they take their TARDIS out for a joyride whenever it takes their fancy. It just seems to fly in the face of everything that we've seen of Gallifrey and Time Lord civilization. Finally, we've got the people conjured up out of the imaginations of others and who know of a large number of similarly imagined brethren whom they wish to emancipate. Does it sound like anything? Oh yes, it's pretty much the same plot that we got from The Crooked Man, which expanded the purview of the Land of Fiction so that it even encompasses imaginary friends (with benefits no less).
It is true that there are no original ideas and some of these elements I feel are probably coincidence. The real important thing is how the story works on its own. The problem is that this one doesn't. At all. We're told that travel back in time is possible only with the Point of Stillness, yet Time Lords are not allowed to think about it. If that's so how do they have any kind of study in time travel? How is it that they're supposed to avoid the Point of Stillness if TARDISes travel through it on a regular basis to go back in time. How did Marianna ever wake up? I had thought that they'd gotten to the Point of Stillness, so she was able to imagine herself awake but then the whole second episode states that they're trying to get to the Point of Stillness. So how did Marianna wake up? How did the Doctor and Leela get imaginary friends as well if they didn't get to the Point of Stillness? In fact, an even bigger question becomes why did Marianna have to get back to her TARDIS and her crew after visiting the Point of Stillness? Surely she would need a TARDIS to get her there. Then once she was back on Gallifrey why didn't she enact her grand plans? Why wait until her crew was back in her TARDIS and she visited them? The story doesn't make a whole lot of sense. I'm not even sure that Marianna herself makes sense. Big Finish isn't even paying attention to their own continuity with the whole Quadrigger Stoyn arc. I don't believe that the Time Lords would kill someone by taking their TARDIS apart around them. When the Time Lords want you dead they're far more positive about it. There's also no point to the Doctor's talking about the TARDIS' imagination unless Marianna is herself a figment of the TARDIS' imagination. That at least would give some thematic reason for the Doctor talking about the TARDIS having an imagination and wouldn't really conflict with any type of continuity. I'm also not clear on why the Doctor brings up the Point of Stillness if it's such a bad thing that you shouldn't think about it. I almost feel like this whole story was a strange exercise in the TARDIS trying to communicate with its occupants telepathically (this is also my explanation for the bizarre behavior in The Edge of Destruction) but I have no clue what it's trying to tell them if so. The whole thing just seems like a bizarre waste of time.
One thing that I liked that they tried but doesn't really work is that there's an attempt at the end to try and make The Evil One more poignant by having Leela remember what she told the Doctor about her father. I like that there was an attempt to do something of an arc with Leela even though I really think that they missed the big opportunity by avoiding the whole frisson between the two of them from The King of Sontar. It's such a missed opportunity that this potential to develop Leela and the Doctor's relationship was completely wasted and it would have done such a great job of explaining why their relationship has soured by season 15. I really wish that we could have gotten some development there.
From a production standpoint Louise Jameson really stands out as a perfect performance. In a sea of an awful story, you can tell that she is perfectly invested in it and why wouldn't she be. It was her story. Leela as always is both naïve, wise, and brave and Louise does a fantastic job conveying the mix of emotions. Tom on the other hand doesn't fair so well. Any story that requires him to go into his higher registers is a bad idea. His voice has this weird cracking quality that makes him sound incredibly silly as if he's Scoobie Doo or something. His voice was so embarrassingly bad this time that I couldn't bare to listen to him. Much ado was made of Stephanie Cole in this. She does have a very professional quality about her but I couldn't help but notice that her voice sounded exactly like Joan Lee (wife of Stan Lee) from the 1994 Fantastic Four cartoon in which she played Miss Forbes. I found that incredibly distracting even though I know that it isn't her fault. It also doesn't help that the character of Marianna is so annoying that I can muster little sympathy for her. Mandi Symonds plays her role as a petulant child, which makes her incredibly difficult to listen to. I suppose that's part of the point of her character though, so she does it well. I didn't even realize that there were two male imaginary characters, which doesn't say much for the production. That does explain why it seemed like the same character was talking to the Doctor and Leela at the same time. I just thought that was because of the weirdness of the Point of Stillness. I really think that should have been made a lot more clear. I never realized until I heard the interviews and then looked at the cast list. The music was difficult to take as well. When a composer resorts to using the baby rattle for just about every musical cue you can tell that he's given up and gone home as well. Just as discordant and tedious as the rest of the story the music is an annoying mess that you have to slog through just to get to the end of the story.
Final Rating: 3/10
Recommendation: A painful, impenetrable mess. The Abandoned makes almost no sense and seems to take great glee at just being a strange, discordant, annoying mess. Hopefully Jameson's next outing will see a far more polished script. I highly recommend skipping this one.