The Entropy Plague reviewed

entropy plague coverIt falls to Jonathan Morris to conclude the Fifth Doctor eSpace trilogy with The Entropy Plague. The TARDIS crew of the Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan and Turlough made a surprise trip to eSpace in Mistfall and Tegan managed to get kidnapped in Equilibrium. With the whole of the eSpace universe under threat of collapse, how will our heroes make their escape? How many spoilers will I have to drop in to explain what happens?

Let’s find out…

The story

The Big Finish product page tells us just how high the stakes are:

A Great Darkness is spreading over E-Space. Entropy increases. In search of a last exit to anywhere, the TARDIS arrives on the power-less planet of Apollyon, where the scientist Pallister guards the only way out – a mysterious portal. But the portal needs power to open, and the only power Pallister can draw on is the energy contained within the molecular bonds of all living tissue…

The Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan and Turlough soon learn that neither Pallister nor his ally, the space pirate Captain Branarack, will stop at murder to ensure their escape. But they’re not the only menace on Apollyon. The Sandmen are coming – creatures that live on the life force; that live on death.

Death is the only way out into N-Space. Death, or sacrifice.

But whose death?

Whose sacrifice?

The TARDIS makes (another) crash landing on Apollyon, a planet where electricity doesn’t work and the scientist Pallister makes do with rather sophisticated, almost steampunk robots to do his bidding. With the imminent end of the local universe, people are desperate to either party or escape. Pallister controls (or nearly does) the portal to nSpace but can only open it via the use of human sacrifice. Against this grim setting, bursts of entropy keep leaking out causing Sandmen to appear and premature ageing to sweep an increasingly desperate populace.

There is much to-ing and fro-ing as the TARDIS crew seek to free Tegan, each other, fight robots, pirates and in the end even team up with the bad guy to ensure they at least can return to nSpace. Sadly (and predictably) not everyone can make it back and it is left to the Doctor to deliver bad news to somebody on his return (spoilers follow).

The storytelling

Jonathan Morris has chosen a very different way to tell this story — each disc is narrated by one of the TARDIS crew as they tell the story of their escape from Apollyon to [SPOILER] Nyssa’s son Adric. Very early on we fear the worst for Nyssa and it is soon established she has remained in e-space.

Although giving away much of the ending, the difference in style gives this a feel not unlike a long Companion Chronicles and the chance to hear prose rather than dialogue makes this story sound very fresh.

[pullquote]…he has done enough do give this story some credibility[/pullquote]

The plot is interesting, and even if the intelligent steam-powered robots seem a stretch they work within the story.  Jonathan Morris also cares about science in Doctor Who (see his recent blog post Science Friction); he also exchanged some messages on this topic with me when I reviewed Revenge of the Swarm. In this story he has thought long and hard about entropy and ageing; while I could be picky (and may separately) he has done enough do give this story some credibility.

Despite the large TARDIS crew, there are many extra characters and some larger than life pirates. One character, Cherryanne (Catherine Skinner) made an immediate impact and pulled together lots of the minor threads and stands out even with great performances elsewhere.

The story is dark; very dark. Peter Davison’s Doctor seems very doom-laden and making the best of several bad situations. At one point I wondered if he had a cold when recording as much of the warmth of the character seemed missing. Further reflection has led me to feel it is the overarching sense of doom driving this tale at the core of this portrayal.

A good, fun story and one that also (possibly) draws a line under older Nyssa. We shall see!

The trilogy

The eSpace idea gave some shape to the three stories with a beginning (we entered), a middle (we tried to get out by finding  missing piece of the TARDIS) and an end (as described above). It unified without dominating and is more hit than miss for me.

What do you think of this story and the trilogy as a whole? Let me know!

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