the-abandoned_cover_largeBlurb: The Point of Stillness. A place the Time Lords are forbidden to go. It cannot be drawn, it cannot be whispered, it cannot be thought. And yet somebody is very keen to reach it.

Deep within the TARDIS, something unusual is happening. One of the ship’s oldest secrets is about to be revealed, and once it is, nothing will ever be the same again.

As danger materializes deep within the ship, spectral strangers lurk in the corridors and bizarre events flood the rooms, someone long-forgotten is ready to reappear. The Doctor and Leela are soon to discover that their home isn’t quite the safe stronghold they thought.

Review: There is one thing that everyone agrees upon about the Fourth Doctor Adventures. Love them or hate them but they are definitely looking to emulate as closely as possible the atmosphere of the late Hinchcliffe/Holmes era of Doctor Who from around 1977. For many this is a good thing. That era is regarded as the greatest in the show’s history. For others it means tired and stale stories that feel like they’re from the show’s past. Big Finish’s answer was The Abandoned, a story that no one could say ever would have been placed on television even if it were filmable and it certainly doesn’t emulate the atmosphere of those classic days. This story also deserves note as it is the second time that a Doctor Who companion had written an original story for their character. Back in the 1980’s Ian Marter wrote Harry Sullivan’s war. Here Louise Jameson joins him on that short list by co-writing The Abandoned.

There’s a trap that many actors fall into when they’re writing stories featuring their characters. You can see it anytime that you watch a Stargate SG-1 episode and see “written by Christopher Judge” in the credits. Suddenly, what used to be an ensemble series suddenly becomes all about a single character and that character suddenly becomes capable of doing anything. Jameson, thankfully avoids this pitfall and depicts Leela with the sensitivity that one would respect based on her familiarity with her but Leela does not feel like a Mary Sue and one does not get the impression that Jameson is living out her fantasies through her. On the whole it is surprising to see that kind of restraint from a first-time actor-turned-writer and it’s a favorable sign of what Jameson may be able to do with stories to come.

Unfortunately, Jameson falls prey to other travails of a first-time writer. There’s a general sense that she fails to empathize with the audience. It’s as if having a clear idea of the story in her own mind, she doesn’t feel the need to give sufficient explanation for what is happening nor prevent the audience from being assaulted by some of the worst dialog ever given in Doctor Who and performed in the most petulant and loud manner. The story’s main theme revolves around the idea of one’s imagination becoming real and it goes deep into the Star Trek realm. They say absolute power corrupts absolutely. What they don’t say is that it turns you into a whining, petulant child who screams a lot and that you summon up states from your unconscious who are also whining, petulant children who scream a lot. It is no exaggeration to say that 20 minutes of the 60 minute runtime is taken up by screaming. One would have hoped that veteran writer Fairs would have been able to assist with this but bafflingly it seems that he and the script editor turned a blind eye to this story’s failings and simply passed it along.

Jameson also feels the need to delve deep into Doctor Who lore. One assumes that she was assisted here by Fairs because Jameson has never indicated that she has any experience with eras other than her own. The result feels like a mish-mash of The Edge of Destruction and Big Finish’s stories: The Axis of Insanity, The Beginning, and The Crooked Man. Unfortunately the various story elements and ideas aren’t really connected together and the whole thing feels like a patchwork stitched together from various stories. Even more strangely, Big Finish allowed this story to go out in the same season as The Crooked Man which shares several of the same plot elements but is told in a more coherent manner. Listening to this makes one wonder why they’re listening to the same plot from four stories ago in the same range. It’s all a bit of a mess.

As already stated, Jameson is great in this. She’s clearly proud of her story and her performance as Leela stands out as she depicts her as naive, wise, and fierce all at the same time. Unfortunately, the story does not cater to Baker’s strengths especially in his old age. The man just really isn’t suited to going into the higher registers and this story requires him to do it often. What comes out is something that sounds like he’s trying to do a Scooby Doo impression rather than sounding like the Baker of 1977. It’s an embarrassing performance and it’s hoped that Big Finish doesn’t demean the man by making him do anything like that ever again. Veteran actress Stephanie Cole rounds out the guest cast. She has the dubious distinction of sounding almost exactly like Joan Lee, wife of legendary comics writer Stan Lee. Cole is forced to play an annoying and petulant character despite her age but she does what she can with it and elevates it above her co-stars. She even manages to get a little sympathy at the end. Mandi Symonds plays her character as the most annoying young child that you can possibly imagine, giving her a speech impediment on top of everything to make her dialog sound as annoying as possible. Interestingly enough, author Nigel Fairs manages to insert himself into the production but ironically his delivery is so close to that of Andy Snowball that it is not clear that they are really two different actors or characters. It doesn’t say much about the coherence of the story that you can’t even tell that there are two different male characters until you listen to the interviews at the end of the CD.

You also get the feeling that Fairs seems to have given up completely on the musical score and sounds. There are loud, discordant sounds inserted into the story whenever possible. There are several sounds where it isn’t even clear what it is supposed to be and why you’re hearing it. Even worse is the music, which seems to be composed almost entirely of a baby rattle. Whenever every musical cue includes the baby rattle it’s a sure sign that the composer isn’t really engaged with the story and seems to be trolling. In the end it just adds to the overall assault on the senses that was this story.

Recommendation: An experiment that failed horribly, The Abandoned bravely tries to do something different, but only succeeds at creating a harsh soundscape that will have you wishing to take some Excedrin after listening to it. With a plot with lots of holes, continuity errors, and plot elements that seem to have been lifted from other stories, some of which are quite recent, there isn’t much left to recommend the story. Louise Jameson and Stephanie Cole do their best to elevate it, but they’re doomed to failure. I recommend skipping it.

3/10

2014

Audio Drama

Big Finish Productions

Directed by Ken Bentley

Produced by David Richardson

Written by Nigel Fairs and Louise Jameson

Runtime Approx 60 min.