The first main range release in the 100s was Absolution by Scott Alan Woodward (who also wrote Juggernauts and some other bits). This is an Eighth Doctor story and is pivotal as it tidies up the last of the Divergent Universe arc by disposing of C’rizz. This then allows for Charley to leave in two releases time in the story The Girl Who Never Was.
Charley will go off to spend time with the Sixth Doctor (see Charley and the Sixth Doctor) and I will (possibly) write a separate post about C’rizz and Conrad Westmass who I do feel is a better performer than many of the stories allowed him to be. I will focus on the story of how he found his Absolution.
First up is Big Finish’s own synopsis:
Confession. Penance. Absolution.
The Tardis breaks down in a forbidden sector of space. Ghostly voices cry out for salvation and only C’rizz, the Doctor’s Eutermesan companion, can answer their call – for only he knows the secret of the Absolver. But will he use it to rescue his friends or save the universe?
The Doctor’s sins are catching up with him and the infernal beast Borarus is hungry. Time is running out and Judgement Day is at hand.
Welcome to Hell.
Charley is chatting to C’rizz who is in turn going through his positions. One of these is a never before mentioned reliquary called the Absolver. Of course Charley tries to open it, frees loads of trapped souls and triggers a psychic attack on the TARDIS that takes C’rizz and sends the TARDIS to Hell!
Hell is a planet strangely split into two groups with a castle, guards, religion and all the trappings of a normal Doctor Who story – it a barrier and outside all kinds of bad things. Exploring the Doctor finds a laboratory, learns of experiments in time and that the barrier when it formed also made everyone immortal. There is a lover story and the triumph of faith over science as well.
C’rizz is meanwhile gaining super-psychic powers at a rate of knots and is destined to destroy everything in order to re-create it. He does instead do the right thing, save the day and die in so-doing. The Doctor then whisks Charley off, is chirpy about being back on the TARDIS, they argue about his lack of feeling and she insists on leaving. A story that should have focussed on C’rizz instead parks him in the background most of the time and doesn’t even do him the dignity of ending on his fate and moving the argument to next episode. This is because it is really about the Charley / Doctor dynamic.
I’ve already talked about the character dynamics and narrative focus. The set-up is also clumsy and this is the final piece of the Divergent Universe idea being quickly tidied away. Instead of building up C’rizz over months we get a rapid change of background, personality, history and jump several stages to fit in his ending.
[pullquote]Charley has grown in her years with the Doctor[/pullquote]
The cast is particularly strong as well, and this is not only Robert Glenister but most of the other main characters. Barnaby Edwards gets a full range of emotion from everybody and although I don’t like the Doctor’s portrayal during the argument with Charley it is well performed and India Fisher shows just how much Charley has grown in her years with the Doctor.
For me a mixed-bag: an episode that has to be listened to as it moves the pieces around but one that also frustrates.