Review: Doctor Who: Key 2 Time – The Chaos Pool

The Chaos PoolWell, it’s all over. I’d say, “Thank God for that,” if it weren’t for the fact that it’s Sylvester McCoy stories for the next three releases. I might just sit those out.

Anyway, brief recap: in a poorly acted, poorly scripted sequel to the Tom Baker Key to Time season, Peter Davison’s Doctor now has to go looking for the segments to the Key to Time for no well explored reason other than because there wouldn’t be any stories without it. To help him is a ‘human tracer’ who can’t act and is only human because it helps the plot of an audio play to move better.

So far, he’s nearly got Ace killed (but failed unfortunately), messed up Mars, and met up with the inept Black and White Guardians. Now he’s got to find the Chaos Pool while some giant slugs slug it out.

Oh God, surely there’s more to life than this?

The ageless leader of a dying race believes that salvation lies within The Chaos Pool, a place that even the Guardians of Time have been unable to locate. Meanwhile Commander Hectocot and his Teuthoidian followers move in for the kill – again and again and again…

Two different races from opposite ends of Time – so how can they co-exist?

In their search for the final segment of the Key to Time, the Doctor and Amy become caught in the crossfire. As the end of everything approaches, old friends and enemies reveal themselves and the final battle between the forces of Chaos and Order ignites…

Is it any good?
In a change from hiring from the usual Big Finish cabal of writers, this story sees Doctor Who novels author Peter Anghelides. I’m worried that The Chaos Pool is going to discourage them from doing it again, since this was two hours of awfulness that I really don’t want to go through ever again.

Imagine all the worst things about Doctor Who, and in particular Big Finish’s take on Doctor Who: pointless space jargon, an inability to do any kind of drama without at least slightly inserting tongue in cheek, bad acting, relentless continuity references, lots of shouting of dialogue, big leaps in logic, characters you care nothing about and so on.

Praise the verisimilitude: it’s all here! Front and centre is Lalla “never knowingly delivering a sentence correctly” Ward, given two parts so she can ruin it twice as much. Ward’s appearance is supposed to be an exciting bit of continuity, particularly with respects to the Gallifrey series of stories by Big Finish, but actually messes up the entire second season’s storyline. There’s also one actor skulking away in the background, but not in the cast list, whose voice is so unmistakable, the big reveal in part two is inspire little more than an “And?” and a “God, that means… How plausible is that?”

But Anghelides, who at least gives a slightly more novelistic spin on the show by trying to wind in themes, manages to weigh down what should be a sprint to the finish with timey-wimey space paradoxes, time links, time sucking and more time stuff that will only inspire hate in the listener. I think it’s supposed to be a riff on The Armageddon Factor, but there’s so much going on and so many jumps in motivation and logic that I really couldn’t tell you. There are dog things that might be helpful or on the right side that’s the wrong side; there’s an atrocious love affair; there’s self-sacrifice and ultimate decisions – all very Armageddon Factor, but that was sh*t so you probably don’t want to be tipping a nod and a wink to it.

Still, as far as I can tell from the various CD extras, the individual authors had very little room to manoeuvre once they were given the shopping lists of plot features the Big Finish producers were looking for in the stories, so I don’t blame him that much.

The solution to this ‘exciting’ four play story feels like a two-hour conclusion to a text-based adventure game in which you repeatedly have to take item out of bag, put other item into bag, try to open door, remove item from bag, put new item in bag, try to open door. Then all of a sudden, it’s all over, there’s a handy (almost literal) safety net that prevented everything from actually meaning anything, and still no good reason why any of this has been taking place.

I don’t want to say I told you so, but I did. All in all, a season that could possibly have been ‘almost interesting’ was ‘as bad as I thought it was going to be once I read the press releases’. Don’t buy them. It’ll only encourage them.

Did it keep my brain occupied for an hour or two down the gym or did I, at various points in the play, want to trap myself under something heavy in preference to listening to any more of it?
Oh for the sweet release of death.

Amazon CD: £10.49
Big Finish download (no extras): £12.99
Big Finish CD: £14.99

Peter Davison (The Doctor)
Ciara Janson (Amy)
Laura Doddington (Zara)
Lalla Ward (Madam President)
David Troughton (The Black Guardian)
Ben Jones (Captain Pargrave)
Toby Longworth (Commander Hectocot)
Cate Hamer (The Voice)

Writer: Peter Anghelides
Director: Lisa Bowerman