Equilibrium reviewed

equillbrium_coverMatt Fitton wrote Equilibrium, the middle story in the 2015 Fifth Doctor trilogy. Last month’s Mistfall ended with the Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan and Turlough trapped in E-Space, and the TARDIS lacking a stolen component. Can they find it, repair the TARDIS and return to N-Space?

How did Matt carry the baton of this trilogy forward, and where is the trilogy headed? More important, in my view, is the question:

Does this story stand on its own two feet as well as supporting a trilogy narrative?

Find out, with a few (though not many) spoilers…

The story

First, as ever, the synopsis, courtesy of the Big Finish product page:

Still looking for a way out of E-Space, the TARDIS crashes to Isenfel – a realm of snow and ice. Snarling beasts stalk the frozen plains, a feisty princess leads the hunt, and a queen in an ice palace rules over her loyal subjects.

But this is no fairytale kingdom, and everyone in Isenfel knows the price of survival. While Nyssa and Tegan uncover deadly secrets hidden in the palace, Turlough flees for his life across the tundra.

And as for the Doctor… he only ever wants to change things for the better. But in a world such as Isenfel, such a hope may not even be possible.

The TARDIS survives a landing in an icy wast and the crew set out to find the missing stabiliser. They encounter the princess and get taken to the palace. They are made welcome as guests but equilibrium applies – if they are to stay four others must dies as this is a closed system. The Doctor interferes and slowly deconstructs the artificially stable society of Isenfell, As he does he discovers the world is artificial, an experiment long since run its course.

Of course he tries to fix things and makes things worse leading to a reset and black snow comes to wipe the world clean. Along the way the Queen learns some truths and makes some difficult decisions. In the end all is made good with some sacrifices, the TARDIS is made whole and all would be well except one of the crew is kidnapped!

The storytelling

The plot had shades of Logan’s Run for me, no bad thing. Matt Fitton finds at least a minor role for each of the crew and gives us several well-rounded characters in the royal family and the others of Isenfell. Turlough has the lion’s share, including being the centre of attention of the princess. He might be passive but does get a lot of air time.

[pullquote]The extras are a good listen[/pullquote]

The extras are a good listen, with Janet Fielding pointing out the ecological sub-stories and Peter Davison makes some good points about how often the Doctor actually makes things worse. Matt himself explains the absence of true villain and that is one of the elements that help this linger in the memory.

One gripe is the kidnap sequence — the story is wrapping up yet a new alien appears. I was worried this was a deus ex machina ending, but no it was the link to the final story. Different but in some ways maybe clunky? I’d welcome comments.

Final thoughts

I may be biased as I am a big fan of Matt’s work, but I do think this has lots of strengths and I wish Isenfell had been saved for other stories so it could easily have been re-visited. It may seem to be a version of Peladon set in an icy waste, but I believe it is a strong location easily capable of hosting more stories, even without the equilibrium theme.

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