Tuesday, September 17, 2013

What Happens On New Vegas...

Librarian in the TARDIS, Review 9.02

Title: Night of the Whisper
Written by: Cavan Scott and Mark Wright
Team TARDIS: Ninth Doctor, Rose Tyler, Captain Jack Harkness
Adversary: The Whisper
Originally Released: September 2013
Range and Number: Destiny of the Doctor #9

Synopsis (from TARDIS Wikia) -
New Vegas, 23rd Century — a sprawling city huddling beneath an artificial atmospheric bubble on a distant moon. Pleasure seekers flock there from every corner of the galaxy, to take in the shows and play the tables in the huge casinos. But beneath the glitz and the glitter, organised crime rules the streets.

Whilst Rose Tyler works as a waitress in the Full Moon nightclub, Jack Harkness poses as a reporter for the Daily Galaxy. Meanwhile, the Doctor is helping the police department with their investigation into the Whisper, a strange vigilante that has been terrorising the city's underworld. But the Doctor is also on a mission of his own — to save Police Chief McNeil's life at all costs.

My Review:
I had resigned myself to having no audio story to review for the Ninth Doctor, but then I realized that I could do what I’d done for the Fourth Doctor and review the “Destiny of the Doctor” audio that Big Finish has been producing with AudioGO this year. And since “Night of the Whisper” came out just before I was gearing up to post my review of “The End of the World,” I thought it was perfectly good timing (though I do have an audio-only adventure for the Tenth Doctor that I’m planning on reviewing already, so don’t expect this to be the norm).

This story is remarkable in that it’s the first one that Big Finish has worked on with characters from New Who (licensing rights and all that stuff). It’s also remarkable in that it’s the first of the “Destiny of the Doctor” range that is not performed by someone who was once a companion. Nicholas Briggs, veteran voice actor and executive producer for Big Finish, takes on the roles of the Ninth Doctor, Rose Tyler and Jack Harkness - as well as other creature characters AND the narrator. And I have to admit - I really like his Christopher Eccleston voice. It’s quite good.  There is a bit of a sense that it's a shame that they couldn't get Billie Piper or John Barrowman to perform this story (heaven knows that Eccleston would have been out of Big Finish's price range), but Nicholas Briggs steps up to the plate and does a fantastic job in this installment of this series.

I will say that it was strange to have a pre-theme-tune, cold open for these audios. At first, I thought my copy was defective because I was expecting it to start out with the theme song. But, nope - they went with the New Series tradition of cold opens, which I appreciate (along with the tradition of using each Doctor’s specific version of the theme that Big Finish has employed for quite some time now).  It put me very much in the mode of the New Series for this story and that was a nice little acknowledgement of how the Doctor's stories have been told since 2005.

As for the story itself - after you think about it for, like, ten seconds, the setting is patently obvious, this being a story where Captain Jack has come on board for the ride. Of course they’d go to a planet (sorry - it's really a moon) called New Vegas and of course Jack would have once been on the committee that voted the place as the most debauched in the universe. Nothing Jack does in this story surprises me. Even though this is an audio adventure and I've come to expect a certain kind of storytelling from Big Finish's Classic Doctors’ stories - this still very much fits in with the tone of the Ninth Doctor’s era and could very well be a taste of what a second Eccleston series would have been (complete with Captain Jack being his silly, flirty self instead of the great big ball of overbearing-angst that he became in Torchwood. But that’s neither here nor there).

The story starts out fun and innocent enough - strange goings-on on this moon and Team TARDIS splits up to investigate. And I have to comment on one Miss Rose Tyler. In my previous review, I commented at length about her potential to be a remarkable companion and how she proves herself in small ways in her first stories. Well, by this time in her time-and-space travels, Rose has grown into that potential. Her first appearance in this story, she is working undercover as a waitress in a diner that the Whisper has been known to attack and she’s trying to find out information. One her own. By herself. While the Doctor and Jack are off doing their own investigations.

In the Ninth Doctor’s era, I think it's safe to say that there’s a tonal shift after “The Doctor Dances.” Number One: Jack joins the team and adding a companion to an established Team TARDIS always shakes things up (and because I’m talking about Captain Jack Harkness - *insert obligatory double-entendre here*). Number Two: Rose has been on enough travels and adventures - and she even gets split off from the Doctor for a significant amount of time - that she finally feels like she can handle herself without the Doctor hovering over her shoulder all the time. And he seems to feel the same way. Of course, the Doctor isn't too far away, should Big Trouble happen and Rose does need his help, but she’s proven herself to be a perfectly competent companion (unlike a certain not-quite-companion-because-he-failed-the-audition in Adam. Poor guy - how would you like to be known as the one who lost the chance to travel in the TARDIS simply because you just couldn't hack it?) I’m not quite certain where that change came for Rose, or if it was simply a gradual thing and all of a sudden we realized how much she’s grown since she first met the Doctor. I tend to put it after “The Doctor Dances” - mostly because a lot of spin-off Ninth Doctor media takes place after that story.

This story is also quite representative of most Ninth Doctor stories.  There's a neat balance of the Ninth Doctor's fun, silly, happy-go-lucky side with that gritty, grim, serious side that he's well-known for.  I don't want to get into spoiler territory here because this is new enough that people might not want to have the twist ruined, but the Doctor's response to what the Whisper really is absolutely bone-chilling.  And it's nothing more than what the character would usually do in these situations.  That is all down to Nicholas Briggs' spot-on portrayal of the Ninth Doctor.  There were a few times that I wasn't certain that they didn't get Christopher Eccleston to come read this story - Nick Briggs is just that good!

Maybe if all the New Series stories they do for "Destiny of the Doctor" are as well-done as this one, we could possibly see some more Big Finish stuff from the New Series.  Fingers crossed!

Next Time, on Librarian in the TARDIS -
Review 9.03 - Not sure if this is what nature had in mind for the human race...

Previously -
Review 9.01 - Welcome to the End of the World

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