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“This lifeless gray rock just got a whole lot more interesting.”

In pursuit of a spot of R&R, the Doctor and Leela arrive on the cold and lifeless world of Colophos.

“Oh, you just wait…once we get a campfire lit, why…we can toast marshmallows under the stars.”
“I cannot see any stars, Doctor…I do not think you have brought us to the right place for a…holiday.  Here it is cold, and dark and windy!”
“It is not cold!  It’s bracing.”
“What is bracing?”
“It’s what people call cold when they’re on holiday.”

When a team of surveyors notes some half-buried structural evidence of a lost civilization, they join our heroes on the planet surface.  But like the would-be archaeologists of the Tomb of the Cybermen, these supposed “scientists” are possessed of a far more venal method if not goal thereto…

“Doctor…open the door.”
“Or you’ll shoot me?”
“Eventually…your companion Leela will be first.”
“(exasperatedly bemused) You dare threaten me?  The children of my tribe have more courage than you!”

Hearkening back to both the aforementioned Troughton-era serial and Baker’s own temple of Sutekh from Pyramids of Mars (not to mention Rassilon’s tomb from The Five Doctors), the sole apparent entrance to the most accessible of the buried citadels points to some considerably sinister contents therein.

“Why make a door that can only be opened from the outside?”
“Because, Leela, that door wasn’t designed to keep visitors out…it was designed to keep something in.”

Gareth Thomas, the famed Roj Blake himself, makes one of his all-too infrequent appearances in the world of Who as the genocidal scientist Astaroth Morax, sole living representative of the Colophon race.  Under the none-too tender ministrations of robotic Nurse Torvik (Jane Goddard of Bang-Bang-A-Boom, Dust Breeding and The One Doctor), Morax appears severely wounded, wheelchair bound and marked by advanced age.  But is he as debilitated as he appears?

“These megalomaniacs are all the same…so (the Colophon) chose extinction over tyranny.”

With this subtle but important admonition to stand up in the face of evil regardless of cost, the script begins to turn ever so slightly from simple archaeologicalically driven exploratory sci-fi towards grudging degrees of relevance.

“So what will your survey say of this world?”
“The consortium might designate it of archaeological value, but I doubt it.  They’ll probably just write the entire system off as a tax loss.”
“It must be strange to live your lives according to numbers.”

Touching on both politics, the vital importance of striving towards and maintaining personal existential authenticity and the insanity of running one’s life around the pursuit of commerce (and with all our fates dependent not on intrinsic worth and dignity as fellow human beings, but soulless statistics and number crunching bean counters), as with Morax and his cruel Nurse, there’s more to be found bubbling under the surface herein than may appear at first glance.

Another welcome participant to the proceedings is Jessica Martin (“Mags” from McCoy era teleplay The Greatest Show in the Galaxy, making what appears to be her first ever Big Finish appearance) as Deputy Surveyor Sutton.  By contrast with the more aggressive yet cowardly Chief Surveyor Hardwick (John Voce) and Pilot Kellaway (Blake Ritson, Gods and Monsters), Sutton comes off as positively human and certainly the most likeable of the guest cast this time around.

Thomas delivers a sufficiently sinister performance as Morax, whose madness extends well beyond Machiavellianism, Nietzcheanism and global terrorism, heading straight into H.G. Wells territory by the time things wind to conclusion.

Despite its many strengths, Jonathan Morris’ script seems to move along too briskly for its own weight.  With points psychological and philosophical added to those aforementioned, there is far more going on than is required for a 75 minute performance, with a noticeable if somewhat unrealized potential for author and cast to dig a bit deeper to create a more well rounded set of characters and motivations.

It’s almost New Who in its nigh-ADD scattering of high concept ideas and plot threads only noted in passing, barely filled in before moving on to the next action sequence.  While a strong story at core, in point of practice it’s all a bit too “contemporary”, in the sense of pandering to an increasing lack of attention and patience on the part of the general public to the detriment of intrinsic strength and well rounded characterization, for its own good.

It’s a far cry from the “beat points” and “character as defined by a repeated ‘iconic’ defining line or characteristic” Hollywood has dumbed the playing field down to, but neither is it up to the general standard of quality Big Finish scripts are so often prone to.  A definite case of almost but not quite, all concerns noted could probably have been worked through with more time for the characters to properly flesh things out.

“The human race…spreading imperialism and beaurocracy across the stars.  Come on, savage…time we were gone.”

Filled with Baker’s patented blend of mad, often self effacing humor in the face of a deadly situation and Jameson’s gamely comedic (if naively philosophically poignant) foil in repartee, Last of the Colophon is a worthy if somewhat rushed installment of what is becoming established as one of the better Big Finish series of late.

 

http://www.bigfinish.com/releases/v/last-of-the-colophon-804

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