Vienna finds herself sent to the Splinter, a dangerous and deadly prison, for a murder she can’t remember committing. She has no hope of parole or of release. She has no hope. Life in the Splinter is hard, and Vienna doesn’t stand a chance of surviving it.
The Seventh Doctor story ‘The Shadow Heart’ first introduced Vienna Salvatori to Big Finish and the Whoniverse. Soon she showed up in ‘The Memory Box’ and three series worth of solo adventures. ‘Retribution’ marks the fourth and, for now, final series of adventures for the most glamourous and dangerous woman in the galaxy. And what a way to go out on!
Author Guy Adams begins the three-part story with the tale of how Vienna ended up in the Splinter. But he doesn’t do it by sitting Vienna in front of a prosecutor. He tells the story with a series of flashbacks to help us understand how she ended up in that predicament. It is an inventive way to tell the story; not unheard of but it isn’t very often that it works to such brilliant effect. This script is an incredibly strong opener, setting up a dangerous mystery for Vienna and her friends. One worthy of the galaxy’s most dangerous private detective.
The acting is brilliant, particularly from Chase Masterson as Vienna and Edward Harrison as Prosecutor Grover. What makes Grover such a brilliant character is that he simply doesn’t care anymore. He has heard it all, so anything that Vienna says in her defence will only end up incriminating her more. His interruptions of Vienna’s memories are very often funny and cause Vienna more grief than she needs. He is a great character. If there are plans in the works for Vienna to come back, hopefully he will be a reccurring character.
Overall, this is an excellent reintroduction to the series that gives us an intriguing plot to solve over the course of the next two episodes.
Having a single author befits this format since it keeps a consistency of tone and pacing across the three episodes. In many ways, this is much more interesting way of telling a story: getting to the grit of a mystery without going the long way around certainly speeds things up. Sometimes skirting around the mystery for a few episodes can hinder the overall story. But that isn’t the case here with Vienna finding herself having to come to terms with life in the Splinter quickly if she’s to survive.
What’s evident from the opening moments of part two is how well-realised the Splinter is in audio. There is a very claustrophobic feel to it, especially when characters find themselves in cells. There are little sound effects: the occasional squeak of a rat here, dripping water there. But overall, the general feel of the prison is left to the dialogue and imagination of the listener. It’s a very grim location such that we’ve never seen in ‘Doctor Who’ before!O
Once again, the performances make this story, especially from the guest cast. Annette Badland and Samuel Harris as fellow prisoners Mama Val and Ratz respectively. Both are extremely well-rounded characters who don’t really conform to the tried and true prisoner archetype. Both characters work extremely well with Vienna and the trio form a pretty interesting team. As the trio are trying to understand where they all stand in relation to each other, they all do things that could be deemed untrustworthy. Part Two also ends on a well-executed cliffhanger that ramps up the thrill going into the conclusion.
Part Three introduces us to Rex Needle – the man who runs the prison and one of the most sinister villains in the ‘Doctor Who’ universe. There is something about Colin McFarlane’s voice that instantly sets you on edge. Nevertheless, Rex Needle makes for an excellent foil for Vienna and feels similar to that of David Tennant and Krysten Ritter in ‘Jessica Jones’. Colin McFarlane and Chase Masterson bounce off each other well and their scenes are some of the best in the entire set.
This concluding chapter also takes a surprising look at authoritarian control, how leaders try to limit what the population has liberty to do. Of course, Vienna sees the bad in this and takes a Doctor-like stance against it, fighting for the people so that they can keep their independence. Needle is one of the sickest villains ever on Big Finish: gloriously repulsive.
For those who haven’t listened to anything with Vienna, ‘Retribution’ is the time to change that. This set is a wonderful, character-focused piece that sets aside rip-roaring sci-fi for more personal stories. It explores the world of ‘Vienna’ in a new and interesting light.
Chase Masterson is just superb. From her very first scene she expertly brings Vienna to life. Gone is the naive Leeta from ‘Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’ and in comes one of the deadliest women in the universe. As we hear in the behind the scenes materials, Masterson loved every minute of recording this set. She is supported by a superb guest carst with Samantha Béart putting in a brilliant show as Vienna’s best friend Jexie.
The writing is top notch and, over the course of three episodes, Guy Adams weaves a brilliant tale that director Scott Handcock effortlessly brings to life. Handcock demonstrates a talent for understanding the characters, who should play them and how to get the best out of the actors. This must be one of his strongest directorial entries into Big Finish yet.
‘Vienna’ might have finished for the time being, with no news in the pipeline from Big Finish that she is coming back. But this is an excellent way to bring her story to a close. Or could it possibly be a brand new beginning?
Blogtor Rating – 9/10
This title was released in February 2018. It will be exclusively available to buy from the BF website until March 31st 2018, and on general sale after this date.
A brand new three part adventure for glamorous bounty hunter Vienna Salvatori.
“Does the prisoner have any last words?”
Vienna Salvatori used to be a dangerous woman.
Vienna Salvatori used to be an assassin.
Vienna Salvatori has changed her ways.
After setting up a detective agency with her partner Jexie Reagan, Vienna has left her dark past behind her. Together, they bring villains to justice and right wrongs. Together, they are a team. But all that changes when a woman is killed in cold blood and Vienna is charged with the murder.
Vienna is sent to a hellhole of a prison with no hope of parole or release. But not all is what it seems on board the Splinter. With no means to escape, and no idea who she can trust, can Vienna survive life on the inside?
Written By: Guy Adams
Directed By: Scott Handcock
Chase Masterson (Vienna Salvatori), Samantha Béart (Jexie Reagan), Annette Badland (Mama Val), Samuel Harris (Ratz), Colin McFarlane (Rex Needle), Edward Harrison (Prosecutor Grover), Emma Cunniffe (Sharwell Ness), Adam Redmore(Judge / Drones), Alex Jordan (News Anchor, Drones, Prisoner, Police)
Producer: Cavan Scott
Line Producer: David Richardson
Executive Producers: Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs