What happens when villains question themselves and their motives? What we’re offered in The Fourth Wall is not so much a direct breaking of the rule as in “characters turning around and addressing the audience” but more of an existential look at why characters do what they do and who exactly they’re pleasing or displeasing.
When Flip is taken from on board the TARDIS, the Doctor finds himself on the planet Transmission trying to find her. He finds that intergalactic media Mogul Augustus Scallop has plans to unveil a new television show, Laser, to a test audience. But with dangerous new technology aiding the program things are about to get very real very quickly. As characters from Laser find themselves in the real world, they soon start to question exactly what makes them evil and what makes them good. And that’s when the stakes get even higher.
Motivation has always been a key aspect when analysing Doctor Who. We always like to know what pushes someone to go to the great lengths that they go to, why they want to take over the Universe (Daleks we’re looking in your direction), why they want to have control of Loyhargill (explain yourself Mistress Rani) or why on Earth they would want to dress up as a scarecrow and wait in a field in the nineteenth century for the Doctor to turn up.
Writer John Dorney explores these questions in The Fourth Wall with a bold and refreshing viewpoint. If a character is intrinsically evil, do they need any more reason then that? Yes, it’s nice and dramatic when we get a reason for the evil scheme but sometimes, people can just be bad. It can result from a terrible childhood or a traumatic event at some point in their lives but some people can only indulge in destruction. We’re given that viewpoint in this play and it works wonderfully.
The Doctor also questions himself as well, Dorney writes the Sixth Doctor elegantly and during the character’s moments of self reflection we’re drawn into a world or self doubt and perhaps even loathing. It must also be said that this is delivered fantastically by Colin Baker who, as usual, proves that there are still layers of his Doctor that we haven’t uncovered yet.
The Fourth Wall is an inventive, and at the same time fun, play to get involved with. Tongue in cheek humour is matched with straight up drama to form a moving and exciting story. Motivation is the key to any good character but John Dorney has broken the fourth wall by letting us have a glimpse of what it would be like for a character to be faced with what we’re thinking of them and it’s an experience worth having.
You can purchase The Fourth Wall from Big Finish’s website at www.bigfinish.com.