Review: The Companion Chronicles 3×6 – The Darkening Eye

The-Darkening-Eye.jpgWe’re now entering the fifth Doctor’s era for the first time in Big Finish’s Companion Chronicles range. To a certain extent, I can’t help but wonder why.  

Peter Davison’s willing to do just about any old muck Big Finish throws at him; all the actors who want to recreate their roles as companions (Sarah Sutton as Nyssa, Nicola Bryant as Peri, Mark Strickson as Turlough) and even some of those who don’t (Janet Fielding as Tegan) have had a go, too.

So this really feels like “we couldn’t get the budget to do a proper production of this” rather than a justifiable entity in its own right.

On the other hand, it does enable a “full companion” story featuring Nyssa, Tegan and Adric, which they probably couldn’t get to happen otherwise. So I’ll give them the benefit this time.

However, there’s a couple of things I won’t give them the benefit over:

  1. Bringing back the cocking Dar traders from The Death Collectors
  2. Picking, of all the fifth Doctor stories to write “in the style of”, the most goddamn boring one of them all Terminus

Plot
A new adventure with the Fifth Doctor as told by his companion, Nyssa.

While investigating a debris-littered battlefield in deep space, the TARDIS crew are salvaged by an ancient race of collectors known as Dar Traders.

Separated from the Doctor after an accident, Adric, Tegan and Nyssa find themselves at the mercy of the Traders’ curiosity. But the Traders have salvaged a cabinet from the battle that could be very dangerous indeed.

What does the suave assassin, Damasin Hyde, know of the cabinet? And why is everybody so interested in the missing Time Lord?

To find the Doctor, the TARDIS crew will have to enter a violent inter-planetary war. Where someone will die, and it will change everything.

Is it any good?
I’d like to say it was, since clearly a whole lot of effort has been made by writer, director and cast on this one.

But it’s interminable boredom and stupidity encapsulated in a 60′ play.

As usual, there’s a mixed metaphor at work in terms of the play: Nyssa is supposedly recounting a story to a man she comes across with the Terminus disease. Trouble is, it appears she’s written down and published it in book form before telling it to him. Make up your mind BF: are you just doing audio books or are you actually making plays?

Nyssa also tends towards purple prose rather a lot, making it painful to sit through, particularly with Sarah Sutton’s monotone Nyssa voice, which barely changes when she’s playing Adric or the Doctor. There’s a slight Australian twang for Tegan, mind, but that’s just irritating and not in the slightest bit convincing.

The story itself is dreadfully pretentious, suffers from removing the Doctor for 75% of the narrative, has large-scale gobbledygook and the most stupid concept of all – an immortal man who chooses to become the perfect assassin since he can’t die. Really? That’s what you’d do with your life? And what happens if we stick you in a black hole? Or tie you up or shoot you with a nuke? Give me a Raston Warrior Robot in preference, please.

Dialogue is strained, with Nyssa coming up with some exquisitely bad lines at times: in particular, her ruminations when close to death are mesmerisingly bad (instead of realising “I don’t want to die!” she gasses on about being lured by the land of her father). A brave attempt to do something with the Traken lore from Keeper of Traken just ends up with some bumbling around the concept of Trakenites being slightly death- and evil-proof. Tegan stands around not doing much, while Adric’s a liability.

And anything involving the stupid assassin – who, unbelievably, is caught monologuing – philosophising with Nyssa about why she doesn’t want to kill the Master just makes you want to cringe (“He stole my father’s face”).

So all in all, if you value your time, your money, your sanity and anything else, avoid this one, please.

Price
Big Finish download (no extras): £7.99
Big Finish CD: £8.99

Cast
Sarah Sutton (Nyssa)
Derek Carlyle (The Dar Traders)

Writer: Stewart Sheargold Director: Ken Bentley