You know a play is going to start off badly when the station announcer warns you not to be confused that it starts in the middle of a story. Don't worry, you won't haven't missed anything, she promises, clearly worried the audience isn't used to difficult concepts or standard Big Finish plot techniques.
She was right, though. It was confusing.
Surprisingly, despite already starting with the second half of an adventure, No More Lies is still a play of two halves. The first one is very stupid and very science-fictiony; the second is a far more emotional, far less stupid affair. In fact, if they'd lopped off that first half (which, of course, was also a second half), it would have been a very good play indeed.
Plot (haven't I read this already on the Big Finish web site)
What links a disintegrating spaceship to a posh garden party, where a wealthy couple are celebrating their love for each other in style? Gatecrashers the Doctor and Lucie think they know the answer. But they're not the only uninvited guests - ferocious alien warriors riding pterodactyl-like Vortisaurs are about to make their entrance!
Is it any good?
The first half isn't. We are indeed, as the announcer said, thrown right into the deep end with no idea what's going on, why Lucie Miller is suddenly in charge of the TARDIS crew's plans to thwart bad guys, or why she keeps going on about her bum. We have garbled talk of Tar-Modowks, time whips and countless other bits of standard Who gubbins that we needed introducing to lest we laugh at them, mercilessly. What's going on, why, why we should care: it's all shouted away and is pretty laughable, particularly with Nigel Havers giving his best “evil villain” routine all the while.
The glaring pretentiousness that is having a Hungarian folk song being sung in the middle of the action
But then we reach the second half, which appears almost unrelated to the first half at first. This is a much better affair, with many poignant moments, actual acting by the likes of Tom Chadbon, Julia McKenzie and Nigel Havers again, and very little shouting. Its main problems are overspill from the first half, which contaminates it with SF jargon talk, silly monsters and the glaring pretentiousness that is having a Hungarian folk song being sung in the middle of the action. Like the first half, it feels like so much padding for no real reason.
Maybe it's because I'm still in a weepy frame of mind having just finished Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, but it was a real tear-jerker when it worked. Losing the intro and spreading the main theme of the second half for the entire story would have yielded a far better, far more adult play, I suspect, but that might not be what BBC7 wanted.
In arc terms, the gradual change in relationship between Doctor and Lucie that we were promised has leapt on several notches without much reason, so we've now gone from complete hate in Blood of the Daleks to mild liking last week in Phobos straight through to bestest pals this week. A bit more of the working out needed to be left in, I think.
And the Headhunter finally arrived. I was right: she wasn't very frightening. Let's see what she was all about next week, then.
Listen to the episode (RealPlayer - only until Sunday 10th February 2007!). You can buy it on CD from the Big Finish web site from June.
The Doctor (Paul McGann)
Lucie Miller (Sheridan Smith)
Headhunter (Katarina Olsson)
Nick (Nigel Havers)
Rachel (Julia McKenzie)
Gordon (Tom Chadbon)
Tar-Modowk Leader (Tim Hudson)
Writer: Paul Sutton
Price: £10.99 (£11.50 international customers)
- June 21, 2007: A potted eighth Doctor guide
My semi-definitive guide to the adventures of the Eighth Doctor