Doctor and his new companion Antimony become embroiled in
the struggle against a ruthless military dictator called General
Tannis. Meanwhile, Ace finds herself in training for a destiny
she never dreamed possible...
As the first broadcast Who since the 1996 TV movie
(unless you count the affectionate spoof The Curse of Fatal
Death), the importance of Death Comes to Time cannot
be overstated. It has certainly caused a stir within fan circles,
not least because of its blatant disregard for developments
in the TV movie as well as the prose and audio adventures
of the Seventh and Eighth Doctors. But more on that later.
a story in its own right, Death gets off to a great
start. Both the Doctor and the cruel and camp Tannis (John
Sessions) benefit from spectacular introductions. Sylvester
McCoy gives one of his best performances ever as the Doctor,
while Kevin Eldon also makes a good impression as Antimony,
his eager new companion, who as yet knows very little about
the universe at large, including Earth.
contrast to the sound and fury of Tannis' violent conquest
of the planet Santiny, the cryptic teachings of the Time Lord
Casmus are given great weight by the sagely tones of Leonard
Fenton. And, of course, the presence of Stephen Fry as the
Minister of Chance - a Time Lord whose desire to meddle with
the affairs of other worlds is considered excessive even by
the Doctor - is a fan's dream come true.
has often, justifiably, been touted as a worthy actor to play
the Doctor, and it is easy to imagine him in that role as
he portrays the flippant but troubled Minister, who gains
a companion in the shape of Santine Senator Sala (Britta Gartner).
In fact, there are three interpretations of the Doctor/companion
relationship in Death Comes to Time. In addition to
the Doctor and Antimony and the Minister and Sala, Ace (Sophie
Aldred) finds herself under the tutelage of Casmus, who represents
the Doctor's role as mentor and guide.
rather too reminiscent of Star Wars' Jedi, Ace's training
actually realises a character development that Andrew Cartmel
had in mind when he was script editor of the TV series. His
plan was for her to remain on Gallifrey and enrol at the Academy.
The Doctor's ultimate demonstration of his true might, and
his comments that he has "died before" also happen to tie
in with the "Cartmel Masterplan".
following the promising first episode, things go downhill.
Perhaps because the first instalment was originally intended
as a pilot for radio, rather than a webcast split into ten-minute
chunks, the remaining episodes meander relatively sluggishly,
frequently re-treading what has already been established.
Although some of Lee Sullivan's artwork from the webcast has
been reproduced inside the accompanying booklet, it cannot
punctuate the drama as it did on the web. Certain dramatic
revelations have less impact without the pictures, and most
of the cliffhangers frankly fall flat.
things do pick up during the final instalment, which features
a couple of witty character cameos and culminates in a moving
conclusion - even if it does go against my love of continuity.
At the very least, Death Comes to Time can be regarded
as an intriguing piece of apocrypha, an alternative view of
how the Seventh Doctor and Ace might have turned out in the
decade or so following Survival, their last TV serial
it is possible to shoehorn this drama into established TV,
novel and audio continuity. Stop reading now if you are
unfamiliar with the plot of the webcast but, even though
producer/director Dan Freedman clearly intended to kill off
the Doctor (his sleeve notes describe this story as the character's
"last bow"), the Time Lord might have survived. His body is
never found following his transfiguration, so perhaps he was
re-embodied some time later, and reunited with Ace in time
for the comic strip Ground Zero.
she has reverted to her old nickname, the Ace depicted here
closely resembles the independent adventurer who occasionally
crossed paths with the Doctor following her departure as a
regular companion in the novel Set Piece. Already a
time-traveller in her own right, her training to become a
Time Lady seems like the next logical step.
last of the three CDs in this pack also features out-takes
and three interviews from Radio 4's Today programme,
in which John Humphries speaks to Sylvester McCoy, John Sessions
in character as General Tannis, and a Dalek!
Despite its flaws, Death Comes to Time is a provocative
and evocative adventure.
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