Big Finish have released their concluding story in the most recent trilogy of Monthly Adventures. ‘Warzone/Conversion‘ is the final run of stories this year featuring Marc, the Roman, and the Fifth Doctor.
The term trilogy is only loosely applied here with the second successive double bill. The one strong thread is Marc, so if this is your first story with him you will be okay. The stakes may not be as high for you but it’s worthwhile couple of stories to hear regardless.
‘Warzone‘ is the first story in this double feature. It has the Fifth Doctor’s TARDIS team joining in a dystopian style Olympics of self improvement. The first half of this story is lighthearted and funny. Very funny in fact. It takes more than a jab or two at fitness and the peer pressure people are faced with to better themselves. However, the jokes begin to lessen when the consequences rise.
If you had listened to the previous stories featuring Marc you may have felt that he has been a pin cushion of sorts. This month and in last month’s Monthly Adventures from Big Finish offered double features. This gives us the feeling that Marc’s been through more with The Doctor than is explored here, and that’s a clever decision. Constantly being placed in danger and compared to Adric, Marc is more like the new Rory. He’s going to be placed in every devastating situation and yet bounce back. ‘Warzone‘ however takes a different turn and ends in a cliffhanger bringing us directly into ‘Conversion‘.
‘Conversion‘ is a gorgeously executed story that deals with grief and depression. There’s still plenty of humour but had there been none then this would be one of the most sombre Big Finish stories. Continuing to build from the lack of acknowledgement from the TARDIS team about Adric’s death on the TV show, everything comes to a head.
Not wanting to spoil the events of the story I’ll do my best to remain vague. After the events in ‘Warzone‘ Marc is stuck in his own head. He’s crying for help but can’t be heard. There is a darkness overtaking his own thoughts. This potential allegory for depression hangs over the story while our regular TARDIS team deal with their grief. Not just of Marc but, of course, Adric.
Perhaps it’s best not to talk too much about the story. It truly warrants being listened to. If you, or someone you know has suffered mental illness or grief, this story could be a familiar situation, despite the outlandishness.
It does end in a rather surprising way. When a guest character, such as Marc, appears, listeners understand that the characters time is limited and that all must return to the status quo. The continuity of the original program cannot be disturbed. Nothing so Earth shattering as continuity is broken, but this listener didn’t see what happens coming.
The scripts by Chris Chapman and Guy Adams are excellent. Comedy, drama, adventure and emotion all balanced brilliantly and brought to life by a cast who seem to need this story. The performances are exquisite. Sarah Sutton as Nyssa is more lovely than ever. Janet Fielding as Tegan owns every scene she is in and is not only strong but vulnerable, in her own way. Peter Davison gives my favourite performance as the Fifth Doctor here. A scene between he and Tegan discussing Adric is brief, but… he owns it. They both do, but Davison is perfectly Fifth Doctor.
If all those elements fitting so well together weren’t enough reason to love this release then Robert Harvey‘s sound design and music is the icing. It’s atmospheric and moody with beats of adventure. It feels constant without being intrusive, like a heartbeat, fitting for a release like this.
Although ‘Warzone/Conversion‘ stands on its own legs, it may have more impact if you have a basic knowledge of Adric’s time on the show and if you’ve heard the previous two releases. These are biting stories that complement each other well and therefore earn the emotional outcomes that occur. The cast all deliver some of their best performances here and the post production sound design and music are like parental hands cautiously seeing their babies navigate life.
This release may bring comparisons to ‘World Enough And Time‘ and ‘The Doctor Falls‘ for some elements but it offers a unique vision and story that only helps make those Twelfth Doctor stories even more heartbreaking.
It’s been a strong year for the Monthly Adventures, with some great trilogies and story arcs but this one feels a little extra special.
Warzone by Chris Chapman
At Warzone, competitors gather from across the galaxy to test the limits of their endurance and achieve their personal best. So, when the TARDIS materialises in the middle of a racetrack, the Doctor and his friends must literally run for their lives.
Conversion by Guy Adams
On the fringes of the galaxy, techno-pirates and research medics fight for the secrets of advanced extra-terrestrial technology. For the Doctor, however, a more personal battle awaits as he confronts his own guilt and the creatures that killed a friend: the Cybermen.
- Peter Davison (The Doctor)
- Sarah Sutton (Nyssa)
- Janet Fielding (Tegan Jovanka)
- David Banks (Cyber Leader)
- Timothy Blore (Morris)
- Angela Bruce (Herb)
- Silas Carson (Commentator)
- Mark Hardy (Cyber Lieutenant)
- Pepter Lunkuse (Esma)
- Liz Sutherland-Lim (Creasey)
- George Watkins (Marc)