The November 2018 Big Finish main range release was The Middle, by Chris Chapman. It’s about age, and birthdays and makes some interesting points about society while never failing to entertain. At first it seems to be a riff on the classic story of Logan’s Run, but it’s something rather different of its own.
The Middle story
We have several clues and red herrings in the synopsis:
It’s L/Wren Mrs Constance Clarke’s birthday – and Flip is determined to make it an anniversary to remember.
The futuristic colony of Formicia, where the pampered populace pass their days in endless leisure, seems the perfect place for a ‘Wren Party’. But all is not as it seems. Looking down from the Middle, the skyscraping tower that ascends as far as the colony ceiling, Formicia’s overseers can see that the Doctor doesn’t fit in – and it’s not just his coat that makes him conspicuous…
“The End is the Beginning,” say the propaganda-like posters all over Formicia. Because to be part of this perfect society comes at a price. And the Doctor’s already in arrears.
So, Flip is in full-on party mode, and from the earliest scenes is well-drawn as being much younger than her companions as Mrs Clarke really, really doesn’t want a party. As the story progresses, we learn not only about the middle, but what happens beyond that. If the old have no more apparent use, what should become of them?
Of course the TARDIS team are split up, and it entirely fits with the plot as the Doctor faces several unexpected perils in the company of Sheila Reed’s Janiya, while Constance and Flip both have to make new friends as they strive to challenge the very assumptions of this strange society. Of course there’s a villain, in the form of the Middleman (Mark Heap) but who is above him? There’s plenty of layers to pull back, and the story fits well into four parts. It even muses on the nature of war; not bad for a two-disc adventure,
The Middle storytelling
The central concept of stages of life plays very well with this TARDIS team, perhaps more so than many others. If Flip is over-obsessed with parties, her essential bravery and strength of character survive this change of tone, and everyone has plenty to do, As ever the cast are rock-solid and Jamie Anderson directs with aplomb. There’s much here to enjoy, and roll on Chris Chapman’s next main range release.