Original Sin (audio) review

doctor-who-original-sinOne of many December 2016 treats from Big Finish was the John Dorney adaptation of Andy Lane’s 1995 New Adventures novel Original Sin. It’s an important story; it introduces new companions Roz Forrester and Chris Cwej to the Seventh Doctor, and needs to entertain as well compressing 320 pages into two discs of entertainment. I’ve not read the book, but may add it to my list having heard this.

Short review: it’s a decent piece of entertainment and does it’s job well. Long review? Carry on…

The story

A brief synopsis from Big Finish tells us a few things (and leaves out many):

A warning from a dying alien leads the Doctor and Bernice to Earth. However Earth in this time period is not a good place to be.

The murder rate is rising, but the killers seem to be acting without motive. The TARDIS crew’s investigations lead them to a military training planet, a prison inside a star, and a terrifying old foe.

And all the time they are being pursued – by two dogged Adjudicators who’ve stumbled onto a terrifying conspiracy. Chris Cwej and Roz Forrester.

Things will never be the same again.

The Doctor and Bernice arrive on Earth many centuries in the future, where London has been renamed and the world is full of huge cities, alien races, intrigue and a slowly rising tide of unrest, revealing itself in a sequence of strange killings. Of course the Doctor and Benny get framed for murder and as they travel around the empire in search of clues to the fate of the alien Hith, they are pursued by Chris (Travis Oliver) and Roz (Yasmin Bannerman). The action covers criminal underworlds, military prisons and plenty of other places beside. As the story of the Hith emerges, deep conspiracies are revealed as is the threat of some new science, the icarons. As the make headway they gain the support of military man Beltempest (Andrew French).

Events come to a head in the headquarters of a technology company run by a villain from the Doctor’s past (and not named, possibly due to licence issues?). Everything ends well and the two Adjudicators get taken on board the TARDIS for many future adventures.

The storytelling

The core story was interesting, though whisked between locations a few times. Listening to John Dorney in the extras this could have been three discs, and while John did a great job adapting down to two, I wonder if this is an inevitable consequence. John’s other tricks to cut the text worked well, and there are some wonderful scenes scatter throughout.

Lisa makes points about this being derived from a text written three decades ago, and being pleased at how comfortable she felt stepping in Benny’s shoes for this story. I thought she was excellent in this, and had some meaningful action in this story, balancing leadership, experience and inspiration particularly in scenes near then end when she led the assault on the stranded Hith spaceship.

Yasmin Bannerman and Travis Oliver work instantly as Roz and Chris (though did play them already in Damaged Goods), and as one who hadn’t read the novels, I would have preferred this story were released first. The sinister nameless menace feels credible (even if it managed to stay on Earth 1,000 years without other invasions de-railing it), but the real strengths (for me) of this story are the moral and ethical undercurrents.

With a name like original sin, it’s no surprise we get some moral ground covered and this is what makes the story stand out for me. The Doctor has to talk about murder and we also get to think about the consequences of war and refugees. In some ways the treatment of the HIth seemed topical, and this is probably more of an indictment on humanity that this problem never goes away than clever timing.

Overall it’s far more plus than minus for me, and I’d like more Roz and Chris at some stage. Thoughts?

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