An Alien world in total darkness, a three man crew from Earth on special assignment attacked by aliens with the ability to burn out your eyes, a rescue robot sent to save the crew, and the Doctor and Charlie in the middle of it all. What could be more Doctor Who then this?
The setting: The Cimmerian System, Cimmeria 4 Base, the future.
On the Planets surface Orliensa and her crew, Ferras and Haliard suddenly become stuck in total darkness when they hear a small creature moving around their ship. They are soon sent in to various states of shock when the alien attacks them with an ear piercing scream.
Meanwhile the Doctor has taken Charlie to the Cimmerian system, as he is interested in solving the mystery of why its sun disappeared. They are in orbit above the planet traveling through time watching as the sun vanishes.
As they watch the Doctor decides to stop the TARDIS at the time the sun disappeared to get the answer to the mystery, but before he can pilot the ship they are taken on board an Earth rescue ship.
The ship is under the command of Rescue Operational Security Module G723, or as he is more commonly known to most humans, the ROSM.
This is one of those stories that you just wish they would have made into a TV episode, the ROSM character is just so interesting that you wish it could be in many more stories. Voiced to perfection by Ian Brooker, you can easily get a clear picture of what it should look like, but more so the voice and characterization give you the idea of how powerful a character this robot really is.
Some of the most enjoyable scenes in this play are between the Doctor and the ROSM as he tries to convince the ROSM that he is an intelligent life form and should be listened to.
The ROSM has been sent in answer to a distress call from Orliensa and her crew and is not about to let the Doctor and Charlie get in his why. Upon Interrogating and scanning the two the ROSM feels that Charlie is a biological hazard and will threaten his rescue mission, so therefore she must be terminated.
The Doctor buys Charlie a few minutes by scrambling the robots mind with his sonic screwdriver while she runs for cover, this does not last long as the robot soon recovers and has now built up defenses against the sonic screwdriver. The Doctor tries to get the ROSM to understand that the “biological hazard” inside Charlie are carcinogenic cells and pose no threat to anyone, accept possibly someday to Charlie. The ROSM does not seem to care and orders her termination anyway.
Charlie finds her way into an escape pod and it activates sending her down to the planets surface connecting with the Cimmeria 4 base. Upon her arrival she is greeted by Ferras and Orliensa who ask her to turn on the escape pods lights so that they can see each other. Charlie is confused as the lights are already on, and asks them to come closer so they can see it.
When they get to her she is shocked to see that they have no eyes.
Soon the escape pods lights begin to fade out and Charlie is attacked by the screams of the alien but she somehow manages to escape leaving the aliens work undone. She runs into Haliard who has been driven insane from the pain and experience of losing his eyes. He tells her that the aliens, now known as Cimmerians, want them to embrace the darkness or die. Just then the alien is back and ready to finish what it started to Charlie.
Charlie asks why the alien wants to burnout their eyes and the alien is confused as it has no understanding of the concept of eyes. Charlie tries to explain and the alien begins its screams again. As she feels her eyes start to burn she is saved by the ROSM who fires a shot at the alien, not allowing it to finish the job on Charlie.
As I said before you really do wish they could have made this story into a TV episode, but really there is no way they could have. Much of this story is spent in total darkness as the planet has no sun and for the most part the artificial lights do not work. But then that is the brilliance of this story, telling it on TV would not have worked as convincingly but on audio it makes perfect sense. Writer Nick Briggs is the genius behind this fantastic idea, he seems to really have a perfect understanding of the audio medium.
Reunited the Doctor and Charlie soon learn that the Cimmeria 4 team where on the planet to set up an artificial sun, but Ferras and Orliensa are not interested in finishing the job, they want to go home. The ROSM has different plans and decided to wage war on the aliens as it considers them a hostile force and a threat to the rescue mission.
The ROSM orders them all to stay on the rescue ship and the Doctor and Charlie decided to take the injured alien onboard with them.
In the old days of Doctor Who a small cast was very cost effective and made some stories seem small. But really if done well a small cast in a bottle story such as this can have a big impact really capture your attention better then an over abundance of cast members.
I already mentioned that the ROSM is a fantastic character, so lets talk about the Cimmera crew now.
Orliensa actress, Nicola Boyce, has adopted a German accent for the character, something that Big Finish usually does to help distinguish one actor from another, but as this character is the only other female lead aside from Charlie, it is interesting to think that they did for the sake of the character and not the listener.
The life breathed into the characters in this script is really an enjoyable thing. Ferras actor, Lee Moone, is the “friendly throughout any situation”
character, while Haliard, played by Mark McDonnell, is the tough as nails hard guy turned loveable lug.
These are the types of characters that you would love to see return in a future story.
Speaking of returning, letâ€™s get back to the story.
The ROSM has been overcome with alien particles the same particles that have affected the eyes of Charlie and the Cimmera 4 crew. It can no longer control itself, nor can it control its ship.
The Doctor works out that he must get the artificial sun online in order to the kill the alien partials and save the crew from the alien attacks, but in doing so he makes the planet visible from space.
As he does this Charlie learns why the Cimmerians want to stay in the darkness, if the planet has a sun again another alien race know as the Solarians will see it and used it as a beacon to come and wipe out the Cimmerians.
In the final moments of the play the Doctor has the burden of responsibility on his shoulders, as he must find a way to save the Cimmerians from the Solarians, reunite the Cimmera 4 team, and save Charlie from the ROSM, but could his only course of action be self-sacrifice?
Tune in to the Big Finish play to find out, as you wonâ€™t find me spoiling it for you.
Overall this is one of the best Eighth Doctor plays to date and once again Paul McGann and India Fisher excell in their performances, creating one of the best Doctor and Companion dynamics in the history of Doctor Who.
Isnâ€™t it amazing, throughout all the darkness, how much two characters can shine? Yes it is.