A few weeks ago I mentioned that for whatever reason, I had failed to finish two of the Big Finish audio plays that I listened to way back when I originally ran through the first thirty or so. In the case of the Apocalypse Element, it had to do with the fact that I initially listened to these before I went to bed, and found this one really boring as I fell asleep during it. On a second listen, I realized that I didn’t recall much of the story (thus assuming that I did in fact doze off a bit) but I don’t believe I ever listened to the whole thing! While there were a few problems, I’m glad I gave this a second shot, as it is a solid drama, and another great example of why the sixth Doctor really works if the writing is really good.
“When the planet Archetryx is threatened by a Dalek assault squad, the Doctor and Evelyn become embroiled in an ever-deepening mystery. What has become of President Romana, missing for twenty years? What lurks in the vast gravity wells of Archetryx? What is the secret of the ancient element the Daleks are synthesising – and how does Gallifrey feature in the plans?
The Doctor finds that if his oldest enemies cannot conquer the universe they will watch it go up in flames…”
It’s easy to dismiss this drama as nothing more than pure act of fanwank, as it basically exists to fill in plotholes ravaging the Doctor Who canon for years. I honestly think that this view isn’t very fair at all.
First of all, this play contains the first Big Finish, and more specific, Doctor Who appearance of Lalla Ward since her departure in the TV serial Warriors Gate. This Romana is different from the Romana that we are used to; she’s been imprisoned for the last twenty years, and it’s not evident if she’ totally trustworthy after her ordeal. Ward does a great job showing a more emotional and even fractured side to Romana, a far cry from her chipper know-it-all personality from the show. I may be in the minority, but I never did like Romana in some of her appearances with Tom Baker. This is because I dislike companions that constantly try to outsmart the Doctor. Much like Adric, Romana always knew everything and came across like a jerk sometimes. Don’t forget that she was there when the show was slowly turning into the “Tom Baker comedy hour” so we had The Doctor being a goof, followed by Romana rolling her eyes in each episode.
So yeah, about those plothole fillers – we have many occurrences where this drama attempts to “fix things” that may not have made sense in the show. To be honest, this can be a bit too much at times, and almost seems like the writer had an agenda with the story (I’ll fix all the problems!). These problems that are “fixed” in the play include the use of a human retinal pattern being used specifically without explanation to open the “Eye of Harmony” from the 1996 TV movie. This agenda clutters the story of the play, and makes it obvious that too much is going on. We have the return of Romana, the Daleks Invading Gallifrey, the Daleks eradicating another planet, a zany Dalek scheme etc. It would have worked better if it was longer.
Doctor Who – The Apocalypse Element is a good drama albeit one that tries to do far too much. While the story is exciting, it seems a bit cluttered with returning characters, subplots, and various other problems. With its problems, I honestly enjoyed the play, and continue on my Colin Baker reconciliation tour!