“Unless we can maintain a sufficient level (of a tranquilizing hallucinogenic drug) in the public water supply, millions of angry sleepers will awaken. The gen(eral) pop(ulation) will see things as they really are…turn against the Consumer Corporation. Seek bloody revenge against those who have fed them dreams and visions of unreality.”
“We can’t allow the proles to get above themselves.”
Thanks to Flip’s boredom and apparent inability to keep herself entertained, the Doctor and his sarcastic companion depart a paradisical stop on the Hawaiian themed planet Tranquility to follow a rather insistent distress beacon to a dystopian “not so great” Britain.
Arriving in a long disused, rusting Underground buried beneath a thick coating of dust, they proceed in short order to encounter scavengers, discover the ubiquitously marketed bottled water everyone consumes is drugged with submission-inducing hallucinogenics, and stumble into a genetic experiment and trap deliberately set for the Doctor himself.
“You know what I think? I think slug face here is just like them at headquarters of FreshGoods…the only thing (they) ever cared about was how cheap the labor was. So ask yourselves – however much Sil…or whoever is paying you, is it really worth the risk of dying?”
When Anonymous-like rebel forces choke supplies of the drug officialdom has been keeping the populace complaisant by means of, our corporate masters find themselves in terror of incipient mass revolt and overthrow. When emergency production of sufficient replacement drugs proves too costly for their alien dark money backers, Sil lets the Parliamentary-cum corporate boardroom in on what he’s been working on behind the scenes – a neutron bomb-like plot to kill off the general populace with a cocktail of alien plague, with the only survivors those ‘elite’ enough to afford the only antidote.
But even Sil has failed to reckon with the forces he’s about to unleash, a sentient disease with a single minded drive to take physical form and conquer, leaving the few survivors as its breeding ground…
“We both know what slug-face is planning for the people, Doctor, he wants to wipe pretty much everyone out.”
“Only the work-shy and underproductive.”
Sounding like a typical Tea Party Republican, Sil’s measuredly “logical” brand of insanity and malice towards all should be quite familiar to just about anyone with access to a news feed over the past decade or so. His spouting of Paul Ryanesque Randian polemic about “austerity measures” and categorization of both the former “middle class” and forcibly disenfranchised as “leeches” and “drains on the system” shines a much needed spotlight on the all too direct parallels between elitist Social Darwinism, monied corporate (ir)rationale and a resurgent fascism. In fact, the plot to kill off 90% of the general populace is put in both corporate MBA and directly Hitlerian terms, alternately spoken of as “downsizing” and “a necessary reduction in budget” as well as a “cleansing” of “society’s vermin”. Can’t spell matters out much clearer than that…
“But won’t such a radical reduction (in government benefits and public assistance programs) cause civil unrest, revolution…anarchy?”
“No, we have already made plans for a security clampdown. All precautions will be in place.”
The “death of democracy” noted in the unmanned tourist guide recordings The Doctor and Flip peruse in an abandoned park early in the affair has led society towards an industrial waste ridden hellhole, with a permanent and disenfranchised (literal) underclass and delusional, zombie-like consumer worker class sleeping through incessant propaganda as to how the corporatocracy is their friend and has their best interests at heart.
At the same time, naturally, the economy has sunk to abysmal depths, its governmental/boardroom leaders, when not occupied with ensuring the masses remain oblivious to what’s going on around their very eyes or shoring up military and legal protections against any coming and much needed revolt, find themselves forced to work with and deeply indebted to both hostile Red Chinese funding and callous alien backers, each of whom are all too happy to push the powers that be over the edge into final oblivion.
Whew! Could this sound any more familiar? Ripped from the headlines indeed…
What a dark, yet immediately relevant dystopia Philip Martin has woven! With direct applicability to the current political climate and some quite apropos warnings about the implications and danger inherent to a world driven solely by a soulless corporate mindset and milieu, Antidote to Oblivion elevates itself well beyond mere ‘relevancy’ to sound a warning cry that positively demands to be heard and properly digested by a larger audience.
“Try not to look so animated…concentrate on fitting in with the crowd.”
“…slack jawed, dopey gazed…”
“Inane looks, vacant smiles…”
“How’s this? (Makes zombie noises)…too much?”
“No, not quite enough. Drop the intelligence quotient down another 10 points…now you look like a member of the sleeping class…”
With the above quoted sequence tapping right into Shaun of the Dead territory, and a John Leguziamo character ostensibly in the resistance who turns traitor for the illusory promise of acceptance to the privileged elite that he can and will never attain (with the price merely being his soul and self-respect) further parallels to George Romero’s similar clarion call Land of the Dead are both obvious and pertinent.
“I have already recommended billions in loans. My masters wish to know when and how you propose to pay them back.”
“We plan further austerity measures.”
“You pay too much in benefits to the general population. To non-productive people, useless eaters!”
Martin, who wrote both of the original Sil/Baker adventures, Vengeance on Varos way back in 1985 and what later became known as Mindwarp from the Trial of a Timelord in 1986, returns to inscribe a far more potent and relevant wake up call than the reality TV prophesying, television as the opiate of the people offering Varos proved to be for its era. Time has, if anything, added renewed bite to his pen, with Antidote turning out to be an equal if not superior companion piece to the earlier Big Finish clarion call Live 34. I remain in a state of stunned awe at the broad based accuracy and sheer applicability of his efforts herein to the present socioeconomic crisis point – all I can offer is a wholehearted recommendation to those with ears to hear to pay heed and take note of what the man is saying here.
“Mistress Cordelia! What progress to report?”
“Your translator device needs adjusting…the term ‘mistress’ is misleading…”
In Cordelia Crozier, newcomer Dawn Murphy delivers a scientist as coldly vindictive as Sil’s dominatrix allusion infers. While never truly approaching the icy callousness of Tracey Childs’ alternate reality Nazi doctress of Elizabeth Klein, Murphy’s comparatively hot blooded approach proves similarly apropos and effective, and allows for the efficacy and impact the final episode revelation regarding (and popping a fatal hole in) her character’s entire motivation provides.
Lisa Greenwood returns as brassy Phillipa “Flip” Jackson, last heard in the excellent if gruesome Wirrn Isle. While Greenwood’s Flip comes off far more obnoxious and petulant than her earlier, more heroically impetuous turn in Wirrn Isle implied, she’s neither as hard to stomach as John Pickard’s Thomas Brewster or as often difficult to take as India Fisher’s Charley Pollard or Sheridan Smith’s ‘Auntie Pat’ obsessed Lucie Miller tended to be against the far more cool tempered and sensitive hearted Paul McGann take on the Doctor (Fisher’s Pollard would prove far more palatable against Colin’s Doctor for a brief run thereafter).
Though director Nicholas Briggs makes comment in the extras about fears among the production team that listeners tend not to take a shine to ‘lower class’ or more pointedly regionally oriented companions, it would appear to be a lesson only partially learned, not to mention one completely lost on televised Newvianism (the enduringly popular Rose Tyler and Torchwood’s Gwen alone practically define the term, with the rather annoying latter party somehow remaining the sole survivor, outside Captain Jack, of the proper homegrown iteration of the series!).
While she does get the full Charley Pollard ‘patient zero’ treatment (or what Nyssa seems to get in every other Fifth Doctor story of late), Flip remains far less empathetic due to her incessant nagging and outright rudeness towards all comers throughout. Even snide busybody Evelyn Smythe had a tender side that peeked its head out once per serial…
Nabil Shaban, “the Silent One” from occult-oriented oddity Born of Fire, returns to his most famous role as the amoral and craven corporate raider and MBA Sil. It’s a pleasure to hear Shaban back together with Colin Baker after all this time, and while his more directly naturalistic (if that’s the proper term to use here) approach to Sil’s gurgling speech patterns appears to be buried under an overly prominent SFX aid akin to the vocoder of Davros or the Daleks, the character’s pettiness, conniving and fits of rage are all his own, and provide a strong link to the televised version nearly 30 years agone.
While certainly Nicola Bryant’s Peri would have made a far more appropriate fit for this long overdue reunion of ‘old Sixie’ and his oft-referenced personal favorite nemesis, one can also make an argument for the extra baggage her presence may have carried (though it is referenced in a nasty dig by Sil early on, and an even darker explanation of those much-contested events near the conclusion). Even so, it would only have added to the story’s already impressive resonance, and one can only hope such a proper reunion lie in the near future.
Colin Baker, naturally, delivers the general high standard of performance he’s brought to his Doctor (and Dark Shadows’ Gerald Conway, Jago & Litefoot’s Professor Dark and The Avengers’ Dr. Tredding) throughout the course of the past 15 years’ work with Big Finish, and regular Third Eye readers are doubtless well aware of my personal affections towards the man and his efforts herein – to elucidate any further would be a pointless retread of all too familiar ground. Nevertheless, my compliments on another bravura performance.
David Dobson (“Korky” in 1963: Fanfare for the Common Men) essays the dual roles of “Pan” and sentient bacteria leader “Lord Mav”, the former the traitorous turncoat seduced by delusions of the Horatio Alger myth and a steady diet of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, MTV ‘Cribs’ and their more modern day equivalents, with Mary Ann Cafferkey’s Cerise torn between a more enlightened viewpoint and devotion to her decidedly flawed man. (She also takes a dual role as the sinister yet seductive companion virus Velena.)
In sum, Antidote for Oblivion is much like its likeminded predecessor Live 34 – a frighteningly relevant warning of where contemporary politicocultural and socioeconomic trends are pointing towards.
While providing a much needed wake up call to a slumbering populace at the time of its greatest crisis, this is far from easy listening or comfort food – this is dystopian science fiction at its most pointed and important.