Abby and Zara found themselves stripped of their powers. The pair had once been the ‘Tracer Twins’ helping The Fifth Doctor locate the Key 2 Time. They have embarked on many adventures before beings called the Grace took their powers from them. From which they decided to live out the rest of their lives as Amy and Joy. Now in their old age, they find themselves plunged into the dangers of the universe once more…
One might have not heard of Abby and Zara. One might not have even heard of the series ‘Graceless’. But from the first story in this four-disc box set, both Abby and Zara deserve to be known.
The opening adventure ‘The Bomb’, sees both Abby and Zara at the end of their incredibly long lives, living out the rest of their days in relaxation. Now under the names of Amy and Joy, the pair find themselves incapable of giving their old lives up. Amy is in the hospital having fallen from a tree trying to rescue a cat and Joy finds herself contacted by someone from another world. Another world which has a bit of a problem.
Series creator and author, Simon Guerrier gets the series off to a strong start, ‘The Bomb’ is incredibly amusing and Guerrier uses the older versions of our heroes to great effect. Annie Firbank and Sian Phillips are brilliant as the older Abby and Zara, effortlessly breezing through the script as if they have been playing the roles through the previous three series’. And standing next to the final story, ‘The Dance’, this is the highlight of the series.
The second adventure called ‘The Room’ sees Abby and Zara going back to being powerful beings, using their abilities to be a proactive force within the universe. However, they soon discover that their powers don’t work in the same way that they used too. This story really sees the pair becoming proactive once more, deciding to get themselves involved in a war. The pair try to resolve the matters internally, but when each time fails, they find themselves having to take the leaders from both the warring factions to a mutual location intending for them to talk things out. Of course, things aren’t that easy and the group find themselves press-ganged into manual labour in a series of mines on the planet’s moon.
Simon Guerrier plays this story out like your standard ‘Doctor Who’ adventure, Abby and Zara arrive, try to resolve a conflict, get caught up in it and are sent to work in some mines. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it allows us some real insight into the minds of those who play with war. We get to understand how each military leader thinks, their belief systems, why they believe they are on the right side.
But moral questions aside, there is one thing that really does feel like it missing. And that is the inclusion of Annie Firbank and Sian Phillips. They were so brilliant in ‘The Bomb’ that their absence was really felt. That’s not to say that Ciara Janson and Laura Doddington aren’t just as fantastic as the younger, or older, (timey-wimey), Abby and Zara but Firbank and Phillips did such a brilliant job that it is a shame we don’t hear more from them.
The third outing, called ‘The Ward’ is perhaps the weakest of the set. The story does pick up at the very end, leaving us with a nice cliff-hanger which leads into the final tale, but it takes a while to get there. Perhaps the biggest problem with ‘The Ward’ is that despite their need to save people, it doesn’t really give us much else to listen too. There aren’t any alien wars or evil tyrants that need deposing. Instead, we are dumped into the middle of an episode of ‘Holby City’ and should roll with it.
Unless you like medical dramas or have an interest in medicine, much of what is said will go over one’s head. Following on from stories like ‘The Bomb’ and ‘The Room’, the series did need a bit of a breather as both previous stories did feature a lot of action.
What doesn’t help is that Abby and Zara are trying to make sure that something does happen, pushing characters to be who they are supposed to become in the future. That is quite an interesting concept, the pair can walk through history, they can see what people will become but none of that really happens here as the story seems happy enough to lecture us with a fairly dull plot.
However, what ‘The Ward’ does do nicely is tie into the final story, ‘The Dance’. That really is the jewel in the crown of this release.
‘The Dance’ is one of those difficult stories to review without really spoiling it for listeners but it goes back into the past, right to both Abby and Zara’s first adventure with the Fifth Doctor, ‘The Chaos Pool’. ‘The Dance’ wraps the box set up nicely, making sure to tie in each story featured in and uses each character we have met along the way in a really interesting way, confronting the listener with a really interesting question: Abby and Zara have saved lives, but for those around them, those who get hurt or die, is it worth it?
GRACELESS? THIS SET IS ANYTHING BUT!
Simon Guerrier’s writing remains good throughout and he really breathes some new life into Abby and Zara. This set doesn’t require any real knowledge of the character’s past box sets beside the fact that they once met and in Abby’s case, travelled with the Doctor. Speaking of the Doctor, there is a nice notion thrown up in the air in the final story that one day, The Doctor, Abby and Zara will meet again. But it might not be a happy reunion. That would be a story I would love to hear.
Both Ciara Janson and Laura Doddington continue to be nothing but excellent as Abby and Zara respectively. They both understand that their characters have been given these abilities to do good in the universe. But they can also have some fun with it. Janson and Doddington have a repartee that is really infectious and the pair really make this set worth listening too. I hope this isn’t the last we hear from either of them.
‘Graceless: Series 4’, really is brilliant, even if it is slightly bogged down somewhere in the middle. Nothing is ever perfect. And let’s have one more shout out to Annie Firbank and Sian Phillips!
Lisa Bowerman does a great job in the director’s seat. The set feels consistent while each story feels different enough to stand out on their own. That isn’t something which is easy to accomplish. But we shouldn’t expect anything less from someone like Lisa Bowerman!
For now, Big Finish hasn’t released any news about the future of Graceless beyond this release. But judging from the way they have left things, with potentially interesting conflicts, things seem to still be up in the air. And that is alright. Because even if Abby and Zara never return, this set of stories is a fitting farewell to the pair. And despite the title, Graceless, those girls are anything but…
BLOGTOR Rating: 8/10
NOTE: Graceless contains some adult material and is not suitable for younger listeners.
There’s a legend told in a town by the sea, about two wicked sisters who died to save the world. Now the world faces another catastrophe and there’s no one to turn to for help. Which is bad news for Joy and Amy, and their grandchildren…
Buried under steel and iron and concrete, and protected by high security, there’s a secret room. From here, General Onora Cormorant directs the Gloit forces as they wage war across the whole planet. But stopping the war will take much more than just getting into that room…
For more than a decade, Space Dock has had an exemplary health and safety record, not least because of the wicked sisters working in its hospital, bringing the dead back to life. But what are they really doing there, and what’s it got to do with one poor nurse’s love life?
In the flood and the fire,
In the heart of the sun,
We were lost, we were dying,
We have only begun,
And the rest of the song,
Remains to be sung,
So we’ll dance through the night,
And the dawn never comes,
Just the two of us.
Written By: Simon Guerrier
Directed By: Lisa Bowerman
Ciara Janson (Abby), Laura Doddington (Zara), Annie Firbank (Amy), Siân Phillips (Joy), Adam Newington (Pool), Hugh Ross (Dodyk), Victoria Alcock (Marcella), Jennie Goossens (Judge Engin), Annie Jackson (Kronchev), Nichola McAuliffe (Comorant), Carol Starks (Slink), Petra Markham (Annie), Carolyn Pickles (Gutierrez), Dan Starkey (Chaff), Richenda Carey (Triangle), David Sterne (Oblong), Duncan Wisbey (Graves). Other parts played by members of the cast.