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Audio Drama Review
A Great Darkness is spreading over E-Space. Entropy increases. In search of a last exit to anywhere, the TARDIS arrives on the powerless planet of Apollyon, where the scientist Pallister guards the only way out – a mysterious portal. But the portal needs power to open, and the only power Pallister can draw on is the energy contained within the molecular bonds of all living tissue… The Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan and Turlough soon learn that neither Pallister nor his ally, the space pirate Captain Branarack, will stop at murder to ensure their escape. But they’re not the only menace on Apollyon. The Sandmen are coming – creatures that live on the life force, that live on death. Death is the only way out into N-Space – death, or sacrifice. But whose death, whose sacrifice…?
Well, whose do you think? Which of the TARDIS crew isn’t in television stories set after this tale, hmm?
Writer Jonathan Morris doesn’t keep us waiting for the answer to that, as the narrative begins with the Doctor (Peter Davison) arriving on the doorstep of Nyssa’s son Adric (Alistair MacKenzie) with some very bad news. The bulk of the story is then told in flashback, with certain elements of description conveyed via narration by each of the regular cast, one per episode of this four-part tale. Turlough’s (Mark Strickson) view on the fate of Nyssa differs somewhat from the terms the Doctor had used, which creates an element of doubt. The final narrator, surprisingly, is Nyssa herself (Sarah Sutton), so even though you start off thinking that you know how this adventure will pan out, the writer keeps you guessing.
Tegan (Janet Fielding) and Turlough’s narratives during the second and third episodes allow Morris to play around with the chronology a bit. The companions were split up, so they witnessed different events on different parts of the planet. Turlough’s account brings a new perspective to events described by Tegan, but gradually the listener is able to piece the whole thing together.
This audio trilogy has mirrored the previous televisual E-Space Trilogy. It opened with Mistfall, a direct follow-up to Full Circle, replete with fascinatingly alien biology and discussions about nature versus nurture. The next story, Equilibrium, though not a sequel to State of Decay (there have been plenty of those already), tackled a similar theme: a once technologically advanced society now seemingly stuck in the Dark Ages. Now The Entropy Plague takes us, as Warriors’ Gate did, to a planet that hosts a gateway to N-Space – though crossing the border comes at a price, and approaching it carries the risk of a debilitating ageing effect. There are also some clunky robots that resemble suits of armour, though disappointingly these are not Gundan, which is something of a wasted opportunity. Entropy, of course, was a theme of Season 18 in general and the season finale Logopolis in particular – what happens here to the zombie-like Sandmen is likened to the fate of the Monitor in that story. It’s all tied up with ‘the Wasting’, a fearful phenomenon mentioned in State of Decay but not explained until now. I love Season 18, so this is all good as far as I’m concerned.
Much more topically, Morris addresses the perils of desperate refugees, who place their lives in the hands of people smugglers.
Guest actor John Voce is in full-on pirate mode as Captain Branarack, his motley crew somewhat echoing the privateers depicted in Season 18’s Meglos and Warriors’ Gate. Meanwhile, Robert Duncan, playing the ruthlessly pragmatic scientist Pallister, is always good value for money.
The trilogy is finished, and so are the travels of this particular TARDIS foursome, as one of their number is irretrievably lost, as conclusively (or so it seemed) Rose Tyler was back in 2006. Of course, Rose came back, but hopefully this poignant farewell will not be undone any time soon.
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