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second-chances

“Nobody gets a second chance in life.  You can’t change mistakes of the past.

Much as you might want to go back and alter things, every event that happens to you makes you who you are.  Every success and every failure.  If you look back, they make a sort of sense.  You need them all.

They say that when you die, your whole life flashes before your eyes.  Maybe that’s why: a final sense of peace, as it all falls into place.”

And with this profound and particularly apropos philosophical proclamation, we come to the end of a long running series.

Starting way back in 2007 as a way to incorporate companions whose associated Doctor had long since left us*, it was nearly two years before The Companion Chronicles expanded its reach to include stories relating to the 5th, 6th, 7th and even 8th Doctor, each of whose respective entourage began to get showcased on occasion.

* or in the case of Tom Baker, who was till recently either unavailable or disinterested in revisiting the role.

Always adhering closely to the audiobook format, the series generally hewed tightly to the concept of the one (wo)man show, with the companion du jour essaying all required roles: self, Doctor and any opponents or incidental characters along the way.  In point of fact, I recall finding the ones I’d tried quite dry by comparison to the full cast audios the main line of Who offered, and tended to shy away from the series as a result.

“I grant you one wish.”
“Don’t you usually get three?”
“Not today.  There’s a recession on.”

But fast forward up to 2011, and the irresistible Peri and the Piscon Paradox.  Much to our surprise, this was at the very least a double act, with Nicola Bryant joined by her (primary) Doctor Colin Baker for a highly enjoyable and amusing tongue in cheek romp rivalling, at the very least, the special releases, short form and bonus audios the main line was prone to offer every so often.  Think of the Maltese Penguin, Last of the Titans, Cuddlesome, the Veiled Leopard or No Place Like Home: fun little “throwaways” that often proved more essential than the foregrounded “important” release they accompanied!

Eventually we’d discover a few others of similar quality along the way.  Bernice Summerfield and the Criminal Code.  The Mahogany MurderersUpstairsGhost in the MachineThe Elixir of Doom.  There are likely many more in the back catalogue to which I haven’t personally been exposed.

But here we are in the line’s eighth year in existence and with all but the first two consisting of steady monthly releases, and like The Eighth Doctor Adventures, Lost Stories and Iris Wildthyme before it, it’s all coming to an end.

Regular series director Lisa Bowerman will likely move on to helm other lines…or perhaps devote all her efforts towards the New Adventures of Bernice Summerfield, which debuts this month, but what (if anything) will become of all the wonderful performers who’ve lent their still considerable talents to the series to date, such as the delightful Maureen O’Brien, who so enlivened such efforts as The Dark Planet, Starborn and Upstairs?

“To be happy, never dream.  Never love.  And never wish for anything else again.”

With Zoe’s memories seriously impaired, her employers bring in the expert to draw forth the information only the perky former time traveler can provide. But her physician is in need of healing herself, nursing a serious grudge against our heroine for something she appears to have done…but what?

Zoe is responsible (inadvertently or deliberately) for the release of an oddly futuristic computer virus cum acidic fungus capable of eating through metallic alloy.  The Doctor, Jamie and Zoe can only watch helplessly as the twin Saturnian space stations Artemis and Apollo and their crews are doomed to a cold death in the blackness of space…or are they?

Because what Zoe remembers is happening right now…and there may be a second chance to change the course of history after all.

“oh, dear…oh, crumbs. That doesn’t sound good!”

Wendy Padbury delivers a surprisingly on point take on the Troughton Doctor and his doddering eccentricities, less in the sense of a proper vocal impression than a dead on caricature of the man’s mannerisms in the role. While not as laugh out loud amusing as Maureen O’Brien’s William Hartnell, it’s an amusing touch and welcome nonetheless.

A two woman show, Padbury shares the stage…er, microphone with one Emily Pithon, who imbues her ‘Kym’ with a mixture of cold abruptness peppered with a measure of pathos wholly apropos to a character deeply scarred by bitterness and loss. With Zoe desperate to remember and torn between empathy and defensiveness, it makes for a relatively challenging listen.

Like a grim, postmodern take on entertaining 60’s cheesefest The Green Slime, Second Chances brings an old fashioned sci-fi trope kicking and screaming into a far darker present day zeitgeist, where actions bear severe consequences and personal, collateral damage is inevitable.  But that’s only the case if we don’t reckon with the intervention of a Doctor…

“I can’t let you do this.  The company’s everything to me.”
“They threw you out.  Tossed you on the scrapheap for the tiniest mistake.  Are they really worth saving?  How many more people have they destroyed?  How many have they ground beneath their feet?”

Ultimately a story of sacrifice and redemption, Second Chances is in sum a bleak tale with a light at the end of the tunnel.  And like it or no, what more fitting ending to a long running series?

Endings are always hard; like a star going supernova, coming to cessation with dramatic finality and sure to be missed.

But who knows what new stars may be birthed in its wake?

 

http://bigfinish.com/releases/v/second-chances-763

 

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