destroy-the-infinite_cover_largeBlurb: The colony planet Delafoss is occupied by the army of a rapacious alien force known only as the Eminence. These slave armies of terrified humans are commanded by the dreaded Infinite Warriors – impervious to most forms of firepower, voices like icy death.

The Doctor and Leela arrive expecting to find Earth’s most successful, unspoiled colony. Instead, they are confronted by a planet choked by industrialization. And at the heart of it all, the construction of something that the Eminence intends will wipe out all human resistance once and for all.

For the first time in his life, the Doctor confronts the Eminence… and things will never be quite the same again.

Review: Looking to expand on the Doctor’s rogues gallery, Big Finish introduced the new menace of The Eminence. The Eminence has been seen throughout Big Finish’s various ranges of Doctor Who adventures. Yet, their origin had never been touched upon. This story tells the tale of how the Doctor first met The Eminence. It also had an intriguing title making one wonder, “how could one destroy the infinite?”

The primary disappointment of Destroy the Infinite is that the title doesn’t denote an interesting science fiction concept at all. Instead, The Infinite is simply the name of a spaceship that the human forces in this story need to destroy. The Eminence’s Infinite Warriors are depicted as a kind of Spanish Inquisition in space that can forcibly convert anyone that they deem suitable to swell their ranks. All that they have to do is inhale something referred to as The Breath of Forever. The process of the conversion of someone to the ranks of the Infinite Warriors is conveyed through the change of Davent, a deep cover agent who had been working to serve the Eminence as a kind of deputy under the Infinite Warriors. The conversion makes him want to do nothing other than serve the Eminence and under its control would turn over his fellow resistance members and even members of his family.

The story is a fairly straightforward affair. Writer Nicholas Briggs states in interviews that he really enjoyed World War 2 films and the storyline is clearly inspired by them. Earth is a stand-in for England and Delafoss in a stand-in for occupied France. Yet, this is not necessarily a bad thing. The story of the underdog facing the implacable foe resonates because most have a strong aversion to tyranny and like to see the forces of freedom win. The story also owes some credit to Star Wars, but not enough to make it seem derivative of that work.

There are also a few things that really don’t work in this story. Any story that relies on the Doctor to be under an alien influence stretches credulity at the best of times. He’s been seen to resist those kinds of influences on too many occasions. With the Fourth Doctor that factor is multiplied by 10. Baker’s penchant for overacting seems to be heightened whenever he’s supposed to play a mentally possessed character and it’s never a convincing performance. The other issue is that the story really doesn’t explain a whole lot about the Eminence. You could substitute any power with spaceships that can brainwash people for them. Their nature and goals are never explained and it makes the story seem a little less consequential than it should as a result.

The production is somewhat uneven. Tom Baker gives his typically strong performance whenever the Doctor is supposed to be himself. Yet, as already mentioned he can’t help but overact a bit as the “possessed Doctor” and while some reviews have compared this story to The Best of Both Worlds it totally fails in that regard because, whereas the latter story did everything that it could to convince that Picard’s plight was permanent, this story gives you no reason to believe that it’s either effective or permanent. He does get a wonderful speech at the end about the horrors of war that shows the perspective that the Doctor has on the big picture. He feels that it’s inappropriate either to take credit for a military victory or to rejoice when so many have died, but he’s broad-minded enough to realize that those who do feel the need to celebrate shouldn’t be interfered with. War is a hard business after all, and many need that release during the good times. Louise Jameson remains brilliant as Leela. It’s fun to see the reactions to the very British officer class on Earth to this half-dressed savage but her determination and faith in the Doctor ends up leaving her in charge. Her strength of will really drives the story and once again shows how strong and wise of a character she really is.

The guest cast has some good talent as well. Ian Hallard depicts Davent’s struggle as he goes from being a deep-cover resistance agent to being slowly changed to an Infinite Warrior. You really feel for him as his final thoughts as himself go to his family and keeping them safe. David Sibley also does an excellent job as the Eminence. He manages to pull off a formless, faceless enemy’s voice without copying what’s been done before for other Doctor Who villains such as the Animus or The Great Intelligence. Clive Mantle and Hywel Morgan, on the other hand, stretch credulity a bit as their very over-the-top caricatures of British World War 2 officers. While the story is clearly inspired by World War 2 films, having the officers speak in British accents and talking like the very stiff-upper-lip-Englishman™ hits things a little to “on the nose” and makes you wonder if the voice actors were giving each other big winks and “ok” signs in the studio. It’s hard to listen to without sniggering a little especially since this story is supposed to happen in the future. The rest of the performances are adequate but don’t really convey a whole lot. Special mention should also go to the music. Once again the score is a beautiful homage to the work of Dudley Simpson. If this story had been recorded for television in 1977 the music likely would have been similar to this and for any fans of the classic series it’s always great to get that bit of nostalgia.

Recommendation: It’s a story that doesn’t really challenge convention, but it’s a fun straightforward adventure story. Destroy the Infinite is a suitably exciting tale and would have only been better if they’d given away a little more information about the Eminence. As a setup for the big threat facing the Doctor throughout his lives, they fall a little flat here because not enough is given to spark the imagination. That aside, there’s plenty of action here and if the story feels a little familiar at least it’s in good ways. It’s also a suitable story for anyone who is unfamiliar with classic Doctor Who. I recommend it.

7/10

2014

Audio Drama

Big Finish Productions

Directed by Nicholas Briggs

Produced by David Richardson

Written by Nicholas Briggs

Runtime Approx 60 min.

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