Thursday, March 19, 2015

Doctor Who Fan Audio Review: Dark Journey, Series 1

Under other circumstances, I would have been extremely leery of  AM Media's Dark Journey Doctor Who. It's billed as a "darker" take on Doctor Who, and too often, darker means an adolescent fixation on sex and violence. (But mostly sex.) While such elements are present here, it's not to such an extent that they overwhelm the story.

The idea of the piece is that the Doctor teams up with Sherlock Holmes to thwart Jack the Ripper.   We learn that he's on his final life, at some unspecified point in his future. I like this bit. It reminds me of  Big Finish's Unbound line of stories and John Ostrander's never produced stageplay, the Inheritors of Time, where the Time Lords feel shitty about cutting the Doctor's second life short, so they resurrect him after he's long dead when they need him to fetch investigate something. In each case, it's a bit of hand-wavy workaround to ensure the story is not treading on established continuity, but I really like this conceit, because it seems so specifically Doctor Who, and if that's a deliberate reference to a bit of obscure Doctor Who trivia, good on AM Media.

I'm less excited about the Jack the Ripper aspect. How many times has the Doctor encountered him now? Ripper's Curse, A Good Man Goes to War, Matrix, The Pit, The Wax Princess, plus mentions in a couple other stories. The Doctor usually notices if he has the same story twice. (*cough* Silver Nemesis and Remembrance of the Daleks) The Doctor Who canon needs another Jack the Ripper story about as much as it needs another account of the destruction of Atlantis.

And I acknowledge that this isn't a particularly fair criticism, as there are many hundreds of Doctor Who stories across fifty years and many forms of media. Any new story is going to contradict and duplicate something else.

I thought the cover artist drew the Doctor to look like a young Anthony Stewart Head, but that's just a coincidence. He drew him to resemble Andrew Chalmers, the actor who voices him. Pictures at this page. I was ambivalent about it until I saw it in the context of a mockup of a paperback, and then I really liked it.

The plot is a pretty straightforward Doctor Who plot, which is that the Doctor shows up, learns that there is something weird going on, learns that the cause is aliens being assholes, and fixes it. This might sound like I'm being dismissive, but I'm not. That's like 90% of Doctor Who stories right there. It's formula fiction, but it's a formula that works and which we've come to expect, and AM Media absolutely made the right choice in sticking to it. It's all in the execution.

And how is that execution?

First, my likes:

The sound effects are pretty solid. The TARDIS and the sonic screwdriver sound just like they do on the tv show, and the background audio effects are right up there with Big Finish's standards.

On a similar note, as it were, I also really liked their remix of the theme song. It reminded me of a better version of the theme the 8th Doctor had later in his run, after he hooked up with Mary Shelley.

We get some lines I really enjoyed. "Benedict, the name amuses you?" presumably in reference to another famous Sherlock. "An old soul on young shoulders."

My dislikes: 

Episode Three introduces a psychic named Cassandra? -10 points, right there.

And, well, I didn't like the Doctor that much. His eccentricity struck me as someone trying to be  quirky rather than an authentic manifestation of an alien personality. Not liking the Doctor in a Doctor Who production is something of a "Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?" kind of statement, so let me qualify it.

Like my observation about Jack the Ripper above, it comes down to a matter of personal preference. Also,regeneration episodes always weird, and that's essentially what this is. It's early in the series, and they're still finding their voice. Not too much is flawless right out of the gate. This portrayal of the character didn't grab me, but I may yet come to appreciate it, or it may evolve over time.


If you're on the fence about it after this review, I say listen to them and make up your own mind.  The episodes are short and sweet, and you can listen to the entire first series in about an hour.

AM Media: Dark Journey 

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