February is known as the month of love and perhaps that’s why Big Finish have given us a Monthly Adventure with two stories. One for each Time Lord heart. ‘Black Thursday‘ is written by Jamie Anderson and ‘Power Game‘ is written by Eddie Robson. Two strong writers with different styles and two stories that offer something unique.
Somehow, the Fifth Doctor does very well with Big Finish period pieces. ‘Black Thursday‘ is set in a Welsh mining town in the early 20th century. It’s Gwyn’s first day in the mines when an accident occurs. Something most mining towns are sadly familiar with.
The premise is simple enough. However, it’s how the story offers respect to miners and the dangerous lives they lead, while adding a great Doctor Who spin, that makes this adventure stand out. Kamelion, played brilliantly by Jon Culshaw, is our lead character in many respects. We see him processing the human emotions of loss in his own way. Uniquely his coping mechanism proves to be both pro and antagonistic. It’s an interesting concept that Anderson skilfully delivers. While it could have been interesting to explore more of Kamelion’s emotional growth in this way, this story runs quickly, smoothly and benefits from its shorter run time.
‘Black Thursday‘ is packed full of strong performances, especially Lizzie Roper. How she delivers so powerful an emotion from just a sound booth is incredible. This audio hinges on these strength of the performances and it makes Kamelion’s actions more understandable. This supremely well paced story is an exemplary example of why Doctor Who fans adore Big Finish. They delve in to examine real life scenarios, or wild concepts, while building upon characters we already know and love. ‘Black Thursday‘ is why we listen to Big Finish.
The joy of all things Doctor Who is that from one story to the next we can switch almost everything. Tone, setting, ideas, all changed at the push and pull of a TARDIS console lever. Seemingly not long after ‘Black Thursday‘, we’re now in a game show, of sorts. ‘Power Game‘ to be precise. A mash-up of ol’1980’s styled game shows but this one doesn’t seem to have an endgame. Eddie Robson shines with this type of premise. It’s interesting and fun but he turns it on its head a time or two, flipping between comedy and danger.
‘Power Game‘ continues the Kamelion stories listeners have been following thus far; the emotional development of a robot that can take on different physical forms. Kamelion is struggling with understanding humanity and his role in ‘Power Game‘ only adds to his, and everyone else’s, distress. Though the physical presence of Kamelion is limited, both of these stories make the most of a robot that can take different forms.
Perhaps the best part of this Fifth Doctor story is that for once it’s not two or three companions shouting over and/or about each other. Not entirely anyway. The poor Fifth Doctor deserves better than Tegan moaning about any and everything like an angry fan on Twitter. Kamelion, though learning, constantly puts everyone at risk. And Turlough… well, for being Turlough. Here they, mostly, if unknowingly, work together and/or are not together.
‘Power Game‘ is a fun juxtaposition to ‘Black Thursday‘ and leaves us wanting more Kamelion in next month’s ‘The Kamelion Empire‘.
This is a great double set of stories that gives us more adventures with a trio of companions we haven’t had much at Big Finish. It’s a clever move to break this title into two separate adventures. This allows more room to examine and explore Kamelion in this trilogy.
The sound design and music are fantastic with just about everything from ‘Black Thursday‘ being spot on perfect. The Monthly Adventures may not offer the ongoing saga that the 8th Doctor has for instance, or the celebratory feel of a 10th Doctor release. What it does take however is small risks and the opportunity to, month after month, offer familiar and comfortable adventures that don’t always follow the norms. Some of the best Doctor Who stories have been told through the Monthly Adventures and it would be a shame to let ‘Black Thursday‘ be missed because it’s not an ‘event’.
The only complaint to be had for the Kamelion stories thus far is that there aren’t more, that we know of, lined up after next month.
Black Thursday by Jamie Anderson.
1902. Deep beneath the Welsh village of Abertysswg, men have worked the black seam for generations. Until the day of the disaster. The day that a blue box from the future materialised inside the mine…. and things would never be the same again.
Power Game by Eddie Robson.
Welcome to the Incredible Power Game, in which three brave Earthlings enter the Void Pit in search of strange gems to help return the alien Hostess to her home dimension. Today’s contestants include Graham, Sadia… and Tegan, an air stewardess from Brisbane!
Written By: Jamie Anderson and Eddie Robson.
Directed By: Ken Bentley.
Peter Davison (The Doctor), Janet Fielding (Tegan Jovanka), Mark Strickson (Turlough), Jon Culshaw (Kamelion), Lizzie Roper (Eira Hughes), Tim Treloar (John Hughes), Matthew Aubrey (Gwyn Hughes), Derek Hutchinson (Geoff Evans), Bettrys Jones (Judith Matson), Christopher Naylor (James Hudd), Harriet Kershaw (The Hostess), Natalie Winter (Una), Richard Popple (Richard), Dougie McMeekin (Stuart), Alex Tregear (Sadia). Other parts played by members of the cast.