Rewritten from material that I originally posted 5/22/13 on another forum.
Blurb: Space Security Agent Sara Kingdom is dead, her ashes strewn on the planet Kembel. But, in an old house in Ely, Sara Kingdom lives on…
Now joined in the house by her confidante Robert, Sara recalls her travels in the TARDIS with the Doctor – and a particular adventure when the ship appeared to land inside a giant clock, where old men are caught in its workings…
And behind this nightmare is an old enemy: Mavic Chen, Guardian of the Solar System.
Then and now, Sara's past is catching up with her. The cogs have come full circle…
Format: Limited-cast audio drama, a Companion Chronicle from the point-of-view of Sara Kingdom. Published by Big Finish Productions and released July of 2010.
Setting: Somewhere in the Solar System, The Great Clock, 3999. The framing sequence is set about 10 years after the ending of the narration for The Drowned World (no earlier than 7000 AD). Lance Parkin's AHistory gives the date for the narration as 200,760.
Continuity: This story takes place between two episodes of The Daleks Masterplan, The Feast of Steven and Volcano. This story happens some time after the events of The Anachronauts but before the events detailed in Home Truths. It's unclear whether this or The Drowned World occurs first chronologically. Sara recalls how she was sent to kill the Doctor, Steven, and her brother, Bret for stealing and emm of taranium from Mavic Chen. She also recalls the attack by the Visians. She also relates how Chen had sold out the Solar System to the Daleks. She recalls that she was in Liverpool during Christmas in 1965. (See The Daleks Masterplan for all the above). Robert recounts the details of the events from Home Truths. Robert recalls agreeing to stay in the house in exchange for his daughter's life and Sara mentions that he tried to record her voice on a wax cylinder several years ago. (See The Drowned World). Mavic Chen mentions Mark Seven and Sara mentions that she first met the Daleks on planet M5 years ago (see The Survivors). Sara also remembers the little boy dying in her arms on Mars (see the short story, The Little Drummer Boy).
Canonicity Quotient: We're struck badly by the unreliable narrator here. Most of this story doesn't make sense and everyone is acting out of character. Also the whole system of having a giant clock to provide a hyperspace anchor doesn't make any sense at all as humans and aliens have both been shown to use hyperspace without such a contrivance. It's unclear what Sara was trying to gain by telling such a story but this is absolutely false. Some thread of this may have actually happened but it's hard to tell what from what we've got. 0.20
Discussion: This story's premise was interesting to me. Sara meeting Bret Vyon and Mavic Chen from a time before the Daleks Masterplan. I was intrigued from the outset. It's a shame to me that Nicholas Courtney and Kevin Stony couldn't be part of such an endeavor as I enjoyed both characters. At any rate I was curious about how this audio would go.
It's no secret that I haven't been overly fond of the "Sara Kingdom trilogy" to this point. I don't like the framing pieces. I don't understand the world that they're supposed to be set in and find it somewhat hard to believe in. I don't particularly like Robert. Despite his motivations being merky - he's a rational man; but believes in ghosts instantly, or he doesn't believe that the house's existence should depend on what it can do for people; but changes his mind as soon as it can help him with a problem. Here again we're faced with a Robert who decided to let his daughter go and never even wants to talk to her again?! While I agree with his decision to let her go it seems odd to me that the only choices were framed as him leaving to find her or not. Couldn't he write a letter to her and wish the house to send it to her? Couldn't he have done something to check and make sure she was still ok? For someone who gave up his own life so that his daughter could live this makes no sense and as a father myself I feel that I have no empathy or interest for what happens to this character. We're left with the impression that he coveted the power of the house to such a degree that nothing else mattered to him, which isn't something that interests me to listen to.
The Sara/house seems to have maneuvered events to this point. There has been hints throughout the narrative but she seems far more sinister then one would think if taken at face value. She tries to leave as soon as she's corporeal but finds that there's no way off the island. That incredibly bizarre thing is that she somehow thinks that the Doctor can provide her with absolution even though she knows that no one else can. The Doctor didn't have any responsibility for Bret's life and isn't in any way responsible for what Sara did. While it was nice to hear the TARDIS sound (and for a moment I expected a surprise guest appearance by Paul McGann) from a rational perspective it doesn't make sense for her to feel that way and while I know that emotions are not necessarily rational I can't follow even the fuzzy logic here.
The actual story itself is rather strange as well. I can understand the idea of a large mass distorting space-time but then there wouldn't need to be a clock mechanism. You just need sufficient mass. The clock imagery appears to be there just for its visual aesthetics and as some people have put it, its metaphorical value. The same can be said for its property for supposedly feeding on its occupants. While it creates evocative imagery the concept as a whole is never explained. What does that really mean in practical terms? Exactly what fate are these people being cursed to live in? Are we seriously expected to believe that a steady stream of personnel being shipped to this place over the centuries is never noticed? The other part of this is that in the Daleks Masterplan and a universe sans-clock they appear to have no problem warping from Kembel to Earth in a day so I'm not sure why this device is perceived as necessary.
Other things eat at me during the story. Sara's relationship to Bret just seems off. The portrayal we got onscreen seemed to imply estrangement. At the very least I would assume that Chen didn't know that they were brother and sister and the differences in their last names would imply that they were likely raised apart. While I can see Sara admiring Bret and his dedication to the service I don't see her as the kind of person who throws herself on him. I also have no clue what all the references to "empire" were about. In this time period the Federation is the main power. Earth's direct power is only over its own Solar System, hence Chen's title. There's never been any evidence to indicate that a second Second Earth Empire started at this point and while it may be Chen's wish to establish such an organization it would be future rather than present. The final oddity was the assertion that Chen was forced to make an alliance with the Daleks because the clock was smashed. Really? I don't recall this being a transportation agreement where the Daleks would ferry people and goods around for him. He saw this as a way of conquering the galaxy, deposing the Federation with Earth and he had likely already planned to take over the galaxies of his co-conspirators by that point as well. While this may have advanced his plans I have a hard time seeing this as a moment when Chen started his dark path towards villainy, forced by Sara's actions to become evil.
In the end my problem is that this is a story all about the atmosphere and the moment rather than about the story. For lack of a better term it's very "new series". Whereas one of the consistent themes for the original series of Doctor Who was the triumph of the rational over superstition. The new series seems to revel in the irrational, having seemingly inexplicable events happen to get characters out of danger, using magic or the mystical without any need for explanation, and violating the basic laws of cause and effect. When I listen to these stories that talk about ghosts and fulfilling wishes and giant magic clocks it evokes that series, not classic Who and its this dichotomy which I think is what has kept me from really getting a good enjoyment out of these stories. For instance, if there has been a mechanism and limits put to the house in Home Truths I probably would have enjoyed the story far more than the deus ex machina presented to us in the actual story.
To be perfectly fair, the production values are tremendous on this story. The atmosphere is beautifully built and the moments are sequenced for maximum emotional impact but the constant breaking me out of the narrative with so many discontinuities and with the IMHO intrusive framing sequences were really to this story's detriment. I am curious if the thread of Sara/house's future will be picked up in another story in the future, whether a CC or not, I really did not feel the kind of affection for this story as I did for stories like Transit of Venus, The Rocket Men, or The Suffering which really evoked the feel of the Hartnell era. I really would like future installments with Steven or Sara to be like and to feel like something that may have actually been produced in the era.
Final Rating: 6/10
Recommendation:: It's a story that is about nothing other than the moment. While continuity is thrown like so much excrement at the fan, just about none of it sticks and very little of it seems to match what we got onscreen. The production values are great and its hard for fans of The Daleks Masterplan not get some interest just from the events here, but a triumph of storytelling this is not. Unless you're a fan of the first two parts of the Sara Kingdom trilogy I'd say skip it.