The Last of the Colophon reviewed

Last of the Colophon coverMay 2014 and the Fourth Doctor Adventures lets us meet The Last of the Colophon in a Jonathan Morris story. The story has Gareth Thomas as Morax the last Colophon of the title. What is his secret? What did Mr Morris name the race after either a Turkish City, a stag beetle or a printers mark / brief book description. Some, all or none of these questions answered below…

The story

Here be the Big Finish synopsis:

The planet Colophos is a dead world. Nothing but dust and rubble – and the ruins of a once-great civilisation. But is it really as dead as it appears? When the Doctor and Leela land, joined by the crew of the Oligarch survey ship, it’s not long before they receive a communication from one of the ruins. A communication from Astaroth Morax, the last of the Colophon.

Attended by a sadistic robot nurse, Morax is in a wheelchair and bound in bandages to conceal his terrible injuries. But is he really as powerless as he seems? What became of the rest of his race – and why didn’t he die with them?

Entering his lair, the Doctor uncovers a terrifying secret…

The Doctor and Leela are trying to have a holiday on an uninhabited world and arrive just as a survey ship does. Joining forces they find Morax trapped in what seems to be a hospital facility complete with nurse. Of course things are not as they seem and Morax has his own agenda and the story of his survival of a fatal plague leaves something to be desired.

The truth emerges step by step and as the tension mounts we find out why Morax is wrapped in bandages. We are also treated to some of the better combat sequences with Leela vs Morax giving a convincing set of fights.

The story appears to reach a conclusion but the astute listener will have deduced that there is more as it transpires that Morax is not as easy to defeat as might be thought.

The storytelling

As listeners we are used to trying to figure out what is going on and Jonathan Morris does a good job of hiding the main twist in full view. I kept getting side-tracked by similarities between Morax and Davros and didn’t even think about why else he might be in bandages.

The latter twists were more predictable which didn’t stop them being enjoyable and this tale moved along with great pace. My only complaint (which didn’t stop me enjoying it) is the slightly dodgy physics used here and there.

Dodgy physics

Feel free to skip this bit. I studied Physics at university and some things just annoy me; I’m sure others are less bothered. I was really bothered by some of White Ghosts and still peeved by a couple of things here. To be fair to Jonathan Morris he is by no means the first writer to fall foul of both of these.

Update March 2015: Jonathan Morris came back to me after this review and we had a twitter conversation in which he discussed his deliberate choice to follow the bad science of the original. He has (today) posted a whole blog piece on this: Science FrictionMy respect for Mr Morris has grown — not every writer would be so open about their craft.

The sonic screwdriver

We all like the Doctor’s magic wand but I can’t be the only one bothered by how sonic vibration can affect metal the way it does. A more plausible device would use electromagnetism to manipulate materials not sound (which means it can’t work in space for example). The whole ‘can’t work on wood’ thing is irritating and in this story we have a concept that if something is invisible by being transparent it can’t be manipulated by sound. Sound and light are not remotely similar. This is not logical (though fits the story).

Spurious radiation / energy

[pullquote]farbelwang radiation and farbelwang energy[/pullquote]

There is a tendency to invent a new bit of science such as the farbelwang. This lets writers worry about farbelwang radiation and farbelwang energy. All very fun but actually energy is just energy and the labels applied are about the forces leading to that energy. The TV show has already given us Artron Energy and in this story we have photonic drives giving off photonic radiation.

Ok this could be a new class of physics and does line up with the conceit behind the story but really light is light is electromagnetic radiation.

Enough science – this was a decent story and should be enjoyed as such!

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