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Thursday, February 12, 2015

REVIEW - Doctor Who: Equilibrium (Big Finish Audio)



Doctor Who: EQUILIBRIUM (Big Finish Audio)
Reviewed By Jesse Kiefer

Written By: Matt Fitton

Director: Ken Bentley

Sound Design: Richard Fox & Lauren Yason

Music: Richard Fox & Lauren Yason

Cover Art: Will Brooks

Number of Discs: 2

Duration: 120' approx.

Available on BigFinish.com

Listen to the trailer.

“While we’re waiting… Nyssa, try the tracker again. See if we’re any closer to our missing stabiliser?”

When the interface stabiliser was stolen the TARDIS was at best rendered unfit for travel and at worst a downright dangerous environment. In this second installment of the new Big Finish E-Space trilogy we pick right up where things left off in Mistfall (see my review of last month’s release). As they pursue Solus and their stolen stabiliser they crash land in Isenfel - a realm of snow and ice. The locale is inhabited by dangerous Snow Beasts, and a kingdom of people that hold very particular beliefs about how survival is attained. Specifically “Isenfel be constant.” This saying holds as a mantra in the kingdom and a hint as to what exactly is wrong with Isenfel. Balance/Equilibrium is considered so vital in the kingdom that cullings occur in order that the population never exceeds a certain point. So when a full TARDIS crew arrives sacrifices MUST be made to maintain the balance! Will the 5th doctor be able to change the beliefs of an entire kingdom AND locate the missing stabiliser they need to escape E-space? Will Turlough find love? Will Tegan ever stop complaining? Has Nyssa missed the life of being high borne? Find out in this new audio story by Matt Fitton for Big Finish! (Clearly I’ve been reading too much Batman ‘66 lately…)

This month has seen HUGE bits of news on the Big Finish Front, so many big announcements, including more Gallifrey stories, a new upcoming series of Bernice Summerfield stories, the finale of the Eighth Doctor’s Dark Eyes Series, THE LAST SIXTH DOCTOR story, and as if THAT could be topped… a NEW series of UNIT stories set in the NEW SERIES of Doctor Who featuring Kate Stewart (portrayed by Jemma Redgrave) marking the very first time that Big Finish has been formally allowed the licensing to do what they do within the Modern Doctor Who setting. That’s not all the news but it sums up several of the biggest announcements, so with all of that going on it might be very easy to overlook the Doctor Who Main Range but overlook it I did not!

Last month’s Mistfall did a nice job reintroducing us to E-space with a familiar tale in a familiar location presented in a new way. This month in Equilibrium we got to have a new adventure in a completely foreign location existing in the still relatively unexplored reaches of E-space.

For those not entirely familiar with Matt Fitton he recently was Script Editor on the Big Finish 15th anniversary release of “The Worlds of Doctor Who” and wrote the whole of the Eighth Doctor series “DARK EYES 3” which pit the Doctor up against a relatively new incarnation of the Master. 

I’m really growing fond of Matt and how he tells an audio story.

Some of my favorite parts:
  • Matt splits up the Full Tardis crew but it feels very organic, it didn’t feel like an episode of Scooby Doo the way it sometimes does. They got split up but the reasoning didn’t feel so forced, didn’t take me out of the story and felt relatively seamless.
  • Turlough and Tegan are individually put into positions that really play against their stereotypical interactions and how you would expect them to react in said situations. Without giving them away suffice it to say it’s really fun to hear.
  • You get the sense that these really are the last adventures that Nyssa intends to take with the Doctor and it’s a little sad in the best possible way. Much less abrupt than how Nyssa left the show originally and feels more like a proper send off for the character.
  • The kingdom is set up on a really simple and basic premise of maintaining a specific balance but the characters who inhabit that kingdom seem to react to that ideal in radically different and quite interesting ways.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from this story because often times the middle story of a trilogy has to be all action or serve as a bridge for the final chapter. This story didn’t feel like either. Not to say that it didn’t serve the overall trilogy by managing to do both but it again flowed very nicely and naturally.

In Summary: In general I very much enjoy the 5th Doctor however I tend to like his TV stories better than his Big Finish stories, and I’m not particularly sure why. Maybe it’s a testament to Davison’s prowess as a stage and screen actor that I NEED to see him to fully enjoy him but I quite enjoyed this one. In fact it may be one of my favorite 5th Doctor audio stories in some time. 

I don’t know if that’s the writing, the directing, the acting or the whole package but this story was just a very well done trip. 

(Clockwise from top left)
Mark Strickson, Peter Davison, Janet Fielding, Sarah Sutton
Photo via BigFinish.com
Now being part of a trilogy it does reference Mistfall and it does give us a cliffhanger to draw us into that final part so that keeps it from being a truly stand-alone tale but those bits don’t stall this tale out too badly or make it overly confusing. I think this one stands pretty well on its own all things considered. 

I will admit one thing took me out of the story and it was no fault of the story… one of the creatures in the story is referred to as a “snow beast” which I can not hear without thinking of the made for TV movie from 1977 Snowbeast: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0076731/ so even though they are clearly wolves in this tale I see in my minds eye a yeti that, for whatever reason, cannot open doors but will laughably reach in at you through windows. But that was MY problem not the fault of anyone else… although if you HAVE seen 1977’s Snowbeast then my mention of it may have adverse effects on your listening experience… I hope it does not and if it does I humbly apologize.

The story was captivating, the pacing was sound, the music lent to the world in a subtle and unobtrusive way. I’d be hard pressed not to give this story at least 4 stars. The only thing holding back is it’s not really treading new ground, both the ice realm and the strict adherence to zero population growth are not new concepts so that may not make this the story that sticks out in your mind 6 months down the road but it’s very entertaining, well done, and well worth your time!

4 Stars



Doctor Who: Equilibrium(Big Finish Audio Play)
Reviewed by Jesse Kiefer on Feb 12, 2015
Rating: 4 When the interface stabiliser was stolen the TARDIS was at best rendered unfit for travel and at worst a downright dangerous environment. In this second installment of the new Big Finish E-Space trilogy we pick right up where things left off in Mistfall.

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