Tuesday, 31 January 2017

221 - THE STAR MEN

And so we begin another year of main range releases, what will 2017 bring us? and can it match the very high standard of 2016? To quote Tom Baker “who knows?” Well, Big Finish probably do but for now the future is a secret known only to Mr Briggs and co…..
January 2017 sees the release of the first in a new trilogy of adventures for the Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison) and his season 19 crew Tegan (Janet Fielding) Nyssa (Sarah Sutton) & Adric (Matthew Waterhouse) and the first of these stories is “The Star Men” and it continues the trend began in last September’s “A Full Life” (review here) of doing something rather wonderful with Adric – it gives Adric time to breathe as it were and have character development that he just didn’t get on TV – yes he is still petulant, yes he is still arrogant but his character is given layers that were either totally absent or just pushed aside in a very crowded TARDIS. and who better to write this new better characterised Adric than the man who wrote his debut story – Andrew Smith.
 Now I have made it sound that this is a very Adric-centric story, and to a degree you would be right but as well as all the characterisation there is a plot. A lot of plot that shoots off in all sorts of unexpected directions and what begins as a disaster movie spins off to a resume mission to an inter-universal invasion to a base under siege and there is even a doomed romance in there too. Kitchen sink, whole kit and caboodle but the plot never seems overloaded and muddled it develops rather nicely and organically, the actions of the characters drive the plot forwards and the events naturally follow omg from each other, so I had better talk about the plot in more detail…
 The Doctor is trying to teach Adric to fly the TARDIS and not having much success in the simulation the is running, he decides to take his crew to visit the astronomy of Gallius Ultima to help Adric with his study of astronomy, unfortunately The Doctor has arrived at the wrong time period and soon a returning explorer class spaceship is on a collision course with the base – but this is only the beginning the ship has been sent back to destroy the base it came from by the mysterious “Star Men” beings of energy from another Universe who have crossed to ours to exploit the energy given out by the creation of stars in Nebula and using this power to slowly enslave our Universe. This is Adric’s story, and his blossoming romance with Autumn Ace (Sophie Wu) has Matthew Waterhouse taking Adric in directions we have not seen previously in the main range (those who have heard A Full Life will know Adric longed to be loved & accepted) but it is these little touches that make Adric a joy to listen to. As for the rest of the guest cast Sue Holderness (of “Marlene” fame) plays base commander and mother of Autumn, Kala Tace in a role that is a complete departure from her comedic alter ego, she is tough as nails and a good person to have on your side in a crisis, I can just imagine her playing the role of Kala on TV in the 1980’s completely against type and knocking it out of the park.
 The story is very “season 19” but season 19 viewed from a 2017 perspective, it is faithful to its era but relies a lot more on character and has more heart than the sometimes sterile Davison era had on TV. A breakneck pace, so much goes on in each episode that you may have to pause and reflect before moving on to the next instalment – there is rather a lot to digest and the tone and direction of the story moves so very quickly but never to the stories disadvantage. In fact it makes the little oasis’ of calm we get as Adric & Autumn get to know each other even more special, because in a story where time is against the protagonists small moments of charm are even more important. A very good start to the main range releases for 2017 that may need multiple listens to fully appreciate 8/10.