Dark Gallifrey continues with Morbius Part Two as the simmering psychological thriller introduces even more Morbius to love to hate

When first announced, it was difficult to appreciate just how Dark Gallifrey was a departure from Big Finish’s usual Doctor Who ranges. Yes, it focuses on some of the Whoniverse’s greatest villains, but so do a lot of their releases. The key difference, they told us, was that this stories would be ‘writer led,’ though what that would actually mean in terms of the final product was unclear. But with the arrival of the first Dark Gallifrey story, Morbius, it’s apparent some exciting new ground is being broken.

Some Doctor Who audios adopt a classic format of 2-6 episodes of 25 minutes each. Others model themselves more on the modern show, with stories told in a single 45-60 minute installment. Big Finish’s recent box sets often loosely replicate a present day season of Doctor Who: each episode mostly standalone but with arcs bubbling away as we head to the climax. But Dark Gallifrey: Morbius looks to a format Doctor Who has never toyed with on television: the mini-series event. The serial tells one story across three hour long episodes, each released a month apart. As such, it’s got much more in common with the likes of The Missing, The Night Manager, or this year’s The Red King, than traditional Doctor Who.

 

Events progress slowly in this middle episode, marking time before a cracking cliffhanger heading into the final battle for the Proteus

The result is a series that has much space to place events on a slow burn. Writer Tim Foley and director Samuel Clemens gently raise the temperature to the boiling point. Morbius is much more atmosphere led than the stories you may be used to, taking its time to let you breath in life about the good time-ship Proteus and to get to know her crew. Every dank corridor, low ceiling, and scowling shipmate feels right at your shoulder throughout. It’s all an incredibly successful recreation of the sort of high tension character drama that’s inspired it.

Of all such shows, though, the one Morbius most resembles is 2021’s The North Water. That may have been set aboard a whaling ship navigating the dangers both aboard and around it in the Artic, and this concerned with a Time Lord warship, but both drip with the same strange and malign atmosphere. In Part One, the Proteus departed the planet Karn, final battlefield the bloodiest conflict in Time Lord history. The newly regenerated Captain Argento is suffering complications putting her in both physical and emotional pain. There’s a Sister of Karn aboard, Gilda, whose very presence makes the superstitious crew jumpy. And below decks, the last vestiges of the Cult of Morbius are prisoners of war. But they have a plan to ensure the Proteus never makes it home…

The cast of Dark Gallifrey: Morbius (c) Big Finish
The cast of Dark Gallifrey: Morbius (c) Big Finish

The ship’s crew continue to be divided in more ways than one, as Argento departs to uncover the icy planetoid’s secrets

This second chapter picks up where we left off. The Proteus has crash landed on an icy planetoid hanging impossibly in the time vortex itself. Morbius’ dark influence continues spread among the increasingly disgruntled crew. Even as Argento and Gilda lead an expedition across the ice to discover the rock’s secrets, mutiny and dissent are on the verge of breaking out at the crash site. But what is the planetoid’s strange power? And how exactly does the cultist Veritas plan to resurrect his master Morbius?

The second of three parts, this installment suffers the fate of many middle episodes in such dramas. Last month’s episode set up the premise and introduced us to its rich world of compelling characters. Next month’s finale will no doubt brings thing to a head with epic conclusions, and shock reveals a plenty. But there’s a definite sense of Part Two struggling to fill its runtime.

The subplot involving troublesome crew member Rolko’s seduction into the Cult ticks over at a glacial pace, waiting to spring the inevitable cliffhanger leading into Part Three. Meanwhile, this episode’s introduction of an AI based on Morbius’ personality, curator of a museum in its dark lord’s honour, feels like a literal plot device. A diversion existing primarily to keep Argento and Gilda away from the main plot because otherwise it can’t happen. The Shimmering Man subplot is likewise placed in time out, waiting to provide some pay off next time.

 

Morbius’ great strengths continues to be the atmosphere of all enveloping doom and the talented cast

The unique release structure of Dark Gallifrey means this factors make reviewing it a challenging process. Ultimately, this is not a series where buying one chapter of the story will leave you anything but bewildered. And certainly by itself Morbius Part Two would be a deeply unsatisfying listen.

But for those with the patience to wait a month between episodes, the dark atmosphere and idiosyncratic take on the Doctor Who universe, together with well drawn characters and a talented case given space to truly inhabit their roles, makes Morbius well worth checking out. Though Blogtor Who can’t help but suspect that many Big Finish listeners will benefit from waiting for next month’s conclusion and then binge listening the whole set together.

 

Dark Gallifrey: Morbius Part Two. Cover by Caroline Tankersley (c) Big Finish Productins Doctor Who
Dark Gallifrey: Morbius Part Two. Cover by Caroline Tankersley (c) Big Finish Productins

Dark Gallifrey: Morbius Part Two

When disaster strikes the Proteus, Captain Argento and her crew must fight for their lives and the fate of all Time Lords. What is out there on the ice? Who hides in the impossible temple? As loyalties shift and secrets emerge, the cult of Morbius lies in wait to bring about the General’s return… 

Dark Gallifrey: Morbius – Part Two is now available to own for just £10.99 (collector’s edition CD + download) or £8.99 (download only), exclusively here.

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