"Justice, righteousness and all the rest of it..."

TV And so for a final time this season and without any gimmicks, this review of part two of Human Resources is laced with spoilers (I spend most of the review understandably discussing the ending), but you can listen to it here first.

That's a shame. After all the build up, well I say build up, more like a bit at the end of each episode of the series, the resolution of the Lucie Miller arc was a bit of a tease and in the end a disappointment. Reminiscent of the bad Sam arc in the novels, the idea of her back story being one of a diverted timeline in which she could and should have been a right wing dictator is rather exciting and certainly explained her willful behavior at the close of Immortal Beloved (or The One With All The Body Swapping). That it was all the Celestial Intervention Agency's fault worked too. Then making her confused and annoyed with the Doctor and giving her the Quantum Crystaliser thingy (more on which later) and having her promise, egged on by the Headhunter, the reap revenge on the timelords increased the excitement level exponentially.

Angry northern lass with the power to change history against the Timelords and Gallifrey with only her friend The Doctor to stand in her way? That's what I call the climax to a series. But then, but then. Oh, sorry, wasn't her after all. It was this Karen character we introduced last week who you listeners otherwise hardly know anything about and won't discover her heritage after all. Instead we're going to climax the story and the series using the newly introduced Quantum Crystaliser thingy (later) to kill of the rampant Cybermen. So what could have been an exciting life or death struggle putting half the galaxy and new friends at odds turned into another anti-climax, a deus-ex-machina.

That Quantum Crystaliser thingy (finally), despite being a wonderful dramatic invention, being able to splinter timelines and then choosing the best one, was in effect introduced to provide a close to the story, in the end about as potent as something a comic strip Doctor in the old TV Comic stories might pull out of satchel to vanquish the Zarbi or whichever monster had been licensed that week. Sorry, that sort of thing, however in keeping with the merchandising greats of the past simply can't wash now. They might as well have invented some new setting on the sonic screwdriver …

And it is a shame because elsewhere the script, for once found some wonderful Cybermen business. I liked that once again it didn't run a recap, other than the dulcet tones of the announcer, throwing us into the action and their massed mechanical voices, the listener orally surrounded by them. That they hadn't heard of Telos but they were from Mondas and had moved to Lonsis looking for a better environment. I loved the potential visuals of the action scenes in which the giant office robots were firing upon the much smaller Cybermen which brought to mind a metal Gulliver fighting android Lilliputians with lasers. I loved that their own overly logical thinking is what undid them really in the end in trying to commandeer Telford.

But in the end those battles weren't anything we hadn't seen or heard before. Invading hoards of Cybermen threatening to convert everyone is really getting to be old hat now and without the visuals to back it up fails to be that spine chilling. It's almost as though Big Finish decided they needed to close out the series with a major villain, but having already used the Daleks, as generally happens with Who production teams, they went with the apparent next best thing, but didn't know what to do with them.

Plus it failed to take advantage of the strongest element of the series, the interaction between the Doctor and Lucie. The Timelord, after causing the problem in the first place, being captive of the Cybermen and Roy Marsden's Hulbert and therefore inactive for much of the first half of the episode, was only able to trade insults and look on as a whole alien race is murdered, which was a bit out of character. For most of the episode he and Lucie were separated again, so those delicious asides, the incidental antagonism was all but absent.

But when they were speaking, whenever anyone was speaking, despite the story problems, the dialogue and characterization and performances were above average . As expected, the Headhunter is a delicious character, a 21st century Sabalom Glitz changing sides quick as a flash to whoever's paying or who she thinks might be winning. Katarina Olsen's accent brought to mind Gwyneth Paltrow in Sliding Doors, which produced some interesting visuals, at least in my head. Hence the photo.
Sadly Hulbert was less potent than last time as he dropped into the role of collaborator generally waiting around until he caught the sharp end of a phaser blast. Malcolm and Karen became slightly cipher-like which is no reflection on Andy Wisher and Louise Fullerton just another problem in a restless story that had too much to do. Perhaps if Karen's character had been as strong as Lucie, the passing on of her tampered legacy would have resonated more. I just want to mention finally how much I've enjoyed Gallifrey: The Return however brief its been -- perfectly handled continuity wise and Straxus was as bureaucratic a timelord as you could have hoped for and his forlorn: "I think I'm going to regenerate..." really cute.

So we've reached the end of this eight week trip through space and time with the Eighth Doctor and Lucie. As was rightly noted in Beyond The Vortex this week, it's been amazing to hear the chemistry between Paul McGann and Sheriden Smith has been an utter joy, recalling the best scenes between Eccleston and Piper and almost making you forget that Charley Pollard ever existed (but not quite -- I miss her and I hope she hasn't totally been jettisoned from the unfolding text). The show really worked best when their antagonisms came to the fore, but you could certainly hear their personalities rubbing off on one another as Lucie's idioms joined Eighth's vocabulary and she learnt how to take charge of situations, like the military offensive in the office in this last episode.

If the complete series had a weakness it was that time and again it sounded like a reaction against the new television series, rather than trying to be its own thing yet still managed, in the case of Phobos, to run headlong into replicating a climax. Also, week on week, especially in the central quartet of oners, we saw potentially interesting set-ups being revealed to be the deployment of some old sci-fi cliché - alien mind control (twice), the body swap episode, the evil from before time and unreliable time dilations (with only the last one seemingly giving it a substantial twist).

I'm also not sure that they entirely managed to deal with the compression to fifty minute episodes on this first outing. Big Finish has been oft criticized for filling out their cds to their full running length even if the four episode structure didn't really demand it. Here, just sometimes, it was as though in plotting each installment, they'd pulled back too far, not providing enough plot to fill the fifty minutes but at the same time not providing enough characterization to fill the time. A couple, such as Immortal Beloved dragged horribly in the middle.


But there's no denying that these stories were still entertaining most of the time, because as I somehow managed to find some variation of saying during these reviews every week, they featured glorious casts giving excellent performances, speaking delightfully expressive dialogue and in some cases the music would give Murray Gold and the might Alistair Locke a run for their money. What too about those resplendently dotty moments that could only happen in Doctor Who, such as Julia McKenzie's Hungerian Folk Song, what I still maintain were killer wombles being bested on mass by Bernard Cribbins, the twist at the end of Blood of the Daleks that revealed the colony's troubles weren't over yet, the whole Greek god thing and making Zeus particularly randy, the Doctor taking up extreme sports to solve the problem of the week and need I say it again giant robots being run by people living in an endless day at the office.

Hopefully see you next year Eighth Doctor and Lucie. Take care.

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