The latest in Big Finish’s range of original Doctor Who audio novels, The Chaos Cascade, enlivens a standard scavenger hunt series with three lively readers

If we begin this review at the end, let’s consider the interviews which close out The Chaos Cascade. They present an eye-opening, even eyebrow raising, view of how these Doctor Who projects come to be. The main criteria handed to author Colin Brake was that it match a Doctor, any Doctor, with another Doctor’s companion in a previously unseen pairing. So it’s to Brake’s credit that he manages to avoid the random dart board approach to such casting. Instead, he successfully finds one with some satisfying potential. The result is Tania Bell, former flatmate of the Eighth Doctor, throwing herself into a space hopping quest alongside the Twelfth Doctor and Missy.

From the Doctor and Missy’s point of view, events take place midway through Series 10. Though this placement does stretch credibility a little. The couple of frenemies are an outing to test Missy’s reformed character. As such, it slightly takes away from her ‘first’ such adventure in World Enough and Time. For Tania, this is after she and fellow former companion Liv have settled down together on 2020s Earth and already briefly reunited with the Doctor in the form of Christopher Eccleston. Now she’s come to the Yorkshire moors to debunk an obvious ‘satellite crash’ cover story. But she’s rapidly finds herself trying to prevent, what else, the destruction of the entire universe.

 

Readers Rebecca Root, Dan Starkey, and Beth Chalmers create a nice energy of shifting perspectives

This trio of characters inspires a somewhat different format to previous audio novels from Big Finish. Three distinct points of view frame the narrative. Dan Starkey reads those passages focusing on the Twelfth Doctor and Beth Chalmers those reflecting Missy’s thoughts. Meanwhile, Rebecca Root takes those centred on Tania. Starkey and Chalmers both read in the third person. It’s in accordance with that old tradition of us never quite being able to get into the Doctor’s head on the page. But Root gives a full first person performance, as if Tania is relating events after the fact. Given that she’s the actor the originated the character, it’s a move that makes perfect sense.

Theses shifts in both perspective and performance give Chaos Cascade a nice energy. Some of us generally find audiobooks a mite too relaxing, and are prone to drifting off mid-chapter. But you should find plenty to keep you awake here. And all three voices work well together, with a pleasant variation in tone. In terms of capturing the various characters, Root naturally gets off lightly – only having to approximate the Doctor and Missy’s Scottish accents as well as Tania might. Among the others, Chalmers’ Missy is particularly note perfect. Both she and Starkey, though, like many before them, pitch the Twelfth Doctor as a little too gruff, with not enough sly humour. However between them, the trio are the release’s strongest asset by far.

 

Colin Brake’s plot is a pick and mix of Doctor Who stand-bys but none the worse for it

Plot-wise, the story stays firmly on safe, if unoriginal, ground. The eponymous Chaos Cascade in an area of instability in the fabric of space time. Only a network of satellites left behind a long vanished species hold the Cascade back from eventually consuming all reality. But now those satellites are failing and the quest is on to locate the three McGuffins scattered across the universe that brought together than reboot the system.

The Doctor’s quest is complicated, however, by two warring species, each determined to claim the power of the Cascade for themselves. Both the Tollatee and the Myzen claim to be acting in self-defence. Each seems convinced the other will use the Cascade to wipe them out. But which one, or both, or neither, can really be trusted? Meanwhile, the search for the three doohickeys of power takes our characters to a present day Earth where an alien spaceship has crash landed, a future human colony in the midst of a robot revolution, and a medieval monastery. (Albeit it on another planet populated by alien monks.)

 

The Chaos Cascade is hardly groundbreaking, but will give you a few cosy winter evenings of easy listening

The story, then, may read like a ransom note assembled from cut up bits of previous scripts in Doctor Who’s back catalogue. But that cosy familiarity, allied with such charismatic readers, creates a lovely flow. The Chaos Cascade’s jaunt across the universe may never take the listener anywhere unexpected, but it wraps you of a comforting blanket of attack eyebrows, Missy winks, and doomsday machines.

The choice of Tania as the returning companion pays off better than many of these mix-and-match pairings too. She’s travelled in the TARDIS less than most, and even perhaps a bit envious of girlfriend Liv’s many years of adventures. So she can provide the wide eyed wonder at the universe the story needs. She’s also endearingly quick in the early chapters to believe that Missy is actually the Doctor. It may reflect an element of wish fulfillment from the Time Lord’s first trans companion. But it’s so sweetly played that an appearance alongside the Thirteenth Doctor, should Big Finish ever get Jodie Whittaker on the payroll, is an absolute must.

At six hours long, The Chaos Cascade is nevertheless an easy going, gentle listen to curl up and while away the winter evenings.

 

 

Doctor Who: The Chaos Cascade. Cover by Claudia Gironi (c) Big Finish
Doctor Who: The Chaos Cascade. Cover by Claudia Gironi (c) Big Finish

Doctor Who: The Chaos Cascade

The Twelfth Doctor embarks on a desperate search for the three scattered parts of the Triskelia – the only means to contain a dangerous multi-dimensional breach in reality: the Chaos Cascade. But two warring races, the aggressive Myzen and the peace-loving Tollatee are also searching for this powerful device, as is a mysterious tech-enhanced part-human mercenary.Meanwhile, the Doctor’s former housemate Tania Bell travels to Yorkshire to investigate reports of alien activity and is delighted to run into a previously unknown incarnation of the Time Lord: one that is female, dresses in purple and carries a parasol!Can the Doctor, Missy and Tania find a way to work together as a team? Or, once unleashed, will the Chaos Cascade wreak havoc across all space and time?

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.