Big Finish Productions
Sarah Jane Smith:
|Written by||David Bishop|
|Starring Elisabeth Sladen|
|Synopsis: Sarah Jane Smith has been attacked, stalked and shot by the acolytes of a doomsday cult. When she tries to turn the tables, she discovers the Crimson Chapter has a weapon that could claim millions of lives...|
Rattling Some Cages Elsewhere (a.k.a. It's Time We Flushed Out The Other Half) by Stephen Maslin 30/12/17
If Buried Secrets was an addendum to The Masque of Mandragora, and Snow Blind was a partial rehash of The Seeds of Doom, then we must be working backwards through the early Tom Baker TV stories. This would make Fatal Consequences in some way of reference to The Brain of Morbius. Which it isn't. In fact the contrast is huge... and instructive. TBoM had, by the time of this release, survived three decades with its monumental reputation intact; a wonderfully exaggerated and quotable entity, you chicken-brained biological disaster. Fatal Consequences, on the other hand, survives perfectly well as an hour's mild suspense but that's all it does. Realism seems to be the order of the day, and if that is what was being aspired to, then job done. Personally speaking, if I want some reality, I'll just open my front door. Give me memorable characters and extravagant dialogue any day: in the world of Doctor Who, that is what endures. In case you think I'm setting the bar too high, Big Finish has succeeded in producing work elsewhere that will stand the test of time; that exhibits the same Morbius-like durability; that one could return to for reasons other than "knowing what happens next".
CHARACTERS / PERFORMANCES
Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen).
Unlike in Snow Blind (where she was little more than a tourist/victim/accidental saviour), Sarah Jane has much more authority right from the off. (Even retrospectively: "She succeeded in derailing a uranium smuggling operation that had taken years to establish," which seems an overly generous description of what actually transpired in Snow Blind. "Recklessly falling out of an airplane" would be closer the mark.) As ever, it's hard to fault Ms Sladen's performance in any way, but she's still being written as "some very plucky young girl" rather than a mature and experienced journalist.
Will Sullivan (Tom Chadbon).
More depth built upon the previous two episodes. Will is not all we think he is, no sirree, and Mr Chadbon does a great job in showing us the uncertainties of his position(s). Top chops!
The Keeper (Jacqueline Pierce).
Doesn't quite have the necessary vocal gravitas for any of this. Patricia Maynard did a far better job as chief villainess in the first run of stories.
Sir Donald Wakefield (Stephen Greif).
A great voice, yes, but not only is Mr Greif miscast, he is given the lion's share of some very tedious expositional dialogue. "I'll contact the government. Downing Street owes me a few favours. We'll get the research centre cordoned off to prevent the infection from spreading. You realize that going into the infected area could be suicide..."
The Rest (Everyone Else).
While we were expecting another extended news exposition to kick things off again, it is peremptorily forward-wound in mid-headline, a nice directorial flourish that gives a much needed oomph in pace. There are ties-in to Cloots Coombe and Hilda Winters all in the first five minutes, part of a grandiose exercise in retro-fitting, not only the whole one-and-a-half series of audios so far but at least two TV stories broadcast three decades previous.
Not least of the umpteen previously unrevealed facts of import here is that "They [The White Chapter] have an acolyte close to Miss Smith with orders to kill... the answer should be obvious." Yes, it is obvious but barely credible. And while we're on the subject of Chapters, I'm still not sure why the Crimson Chapter want to kill their Herald (though there is a nicely directed cliffhanger to round things off: bang, bang, silence).
6/10. Again, this is good in parts, but there is a distinct lack of sparkle in the dialogue. ("We've isolated a variant of Marburg that replicates at nearly fifty times its usual speed." "That means it'd incubate in hours instead of days.") On the positive side, I was mildly interested in the outcome, but I was hardly clinging to the edge of my seat.