Image Credit: Big Finish (Fair Use)
Image Description: The cover of Echoes of Extinction
By John Salway
Name: Echoes of Extinction
Type: Audio drama
Price: £8.99 (download) – also available in vinyl for £10 more
Current TLV investment: £325.40
With the TLV saga slowly, but surely, coming to a close, we come to the final audio drama for the range, a set of two 30-min episodes starring the Eighth and Tenth Doctors. Available both as a digital download and a limited-edition vinyl (which sold out almost immediately), it’s disappointing that Big Finish are increasingly viewing physical media as a luxury item. I would have loved a CD edition of this release to go with my other TLV items – however, lacking a record player (as I think the majority do!) I’ve had no choice but to opt for the download.
The marketing for this one suggested something quite complex, with each Doctor having their own story that would somehow interact with the other. Big Finish’s own listing describes it as “two interlinked adventures”. I was expecting something akin to the format of their previous release Flip-Flop, with either story being a possible start or end point depending on which was listened to first. The truth, however, is far more simple. The Eighth Doctor starts the story off, and then the Tenth Doctor appears in the second episode that follows. There are the occasional “echoes” of the title, short audio clips that blend in from each side of the story – however, these are infrequent and completely incidental to the plot, with the Eighth Doctor not even appearing to notice them. There is also a little novelty in that the two halves of this release book-end TLV as a whole, with the Eighth Doctor’s adventure occurring at the start of his experience, and the Tenth Doctor’s escapade closing his own trials.
As the story tends to progress in a linear manner, I will do the same, and start with the Eighth Doctor’s episode. This is an intriguing little mystery that starts off almost like a sci-fi Beauty and the Beast, with a heroine, Jasmine, being held captive on a space-station by a mysterious, murderous monster who also seems to adore her. Throw in a dry robotic butler who wants to help Jasmine escape, but is also forced to stop her, and we have a well-crafted, intimate problem that’s the perfect size for the short runtime, but with potentially huge consequences. The situation isn’t quite as black and white as it seems, and as the Doctor meddles we learn the tragic origins of Jasmine, her monster and her butler. My only complaint would be that we don’t get to experience enough of this backstory – it’s got some fascinating ideas, reminiscent of Black Mirror, that would have been interesting to experience first hand rather than through a truncated flashback.
Flipping the (theoretical) disc over, we get to the Tenth Doctor’s story, which I sadly found a lot less satisfying. This sees the Doctor join a three-person crew of mercenaries who seek to claim and sell a dangerous weapon on a destroyed world. Clichés abound as they begin to explore, with the Doctor railing against their money-hungry ways. Later, when the crew decide to split up, you won’t hold out much hope for the pair that doesn’t include our hero. Bizarrely, this is one of the most star-studded Big Finish casts of recent years, with Arthur Darvill and Mina Anwar pouring all of their considerable talents into two roles that could politely be considered ‘cannon fodder’ (or ‘red-shirts’, if you prefer), while Burn Gorman also features. Ultimately, a lot of this episode feels like padding as we wait for the Doctor to confront the being responsible for the planet’s destruction.
When he does, the script uses this as an opportunity to present what the Doctor has learned from TLV as a whole, as he gives an impassioned speech about not meeting violence with violence. However, this exposes quite a large flaw in the overall saga in that this isn’t really a new or interesting angle for the character or Doctor Who as a whole; both of which have both railed against conflict for decades. Pick up any Doctor from any point in their tenure and they’d probably give the same kind of speech – so what’s been the purpose of this massive event?
In a final coda, the Tenth Doctor briefly hears his younger self over the radio, and sadly recalls the conflicts that await him, from the Dark Times to the Time War. It’s a well-measured moment that adds a little bit of emotional depth to this second half, but the too-straightforward plotting, and facile moralising, of the main plot leave it a disappointing follow up to McGann’s absorbing opening instalment.
On the whole, this release well reflects Big Finish’s contribution to TLV as a whole – mildly diverting and at times exceptional, but for the most part sadly average.