Reviews and Commentary
At first, I thought this story either had no plot or a cliche one. I love cliches, but even this one made me yawn. "Yaaawwwwnnnn" I said, as the blobby people were introduced seemingly to teach Ace about accepting differences in cultures. I mean, not like we haven't seen that story before. I proceeded to be vocal in my disinterest until....
Oh my god! Stop eating that! Noooo.... Oh nooooo. Oh god. Ewwwww. Oh nooooo. Someone make her stop! You'd think the bit with Ace turning accidental cannibal would have tipped me off that this wasn't your typical light plot-based happy ending Big Finish style story. But, no. I'm dense that way. I'm so dense, it took me over twelve hours to realize why the plot seemed so thin. It wasn't linear. It was thematic. It was about the human condition.
In most animals, cognition plays little to no part in constraining biological urges like reproduction and destruction / killing. They're self-regulating. Animals, as a rule, don't war on each other (except for some insects and various species of primates, but I'm getting ahead of myself). They don't eat or kill their young without a survival based cause. Many of them breed in maximum quantity to ensure population survival through natural selection, and so forth. But, all of these behaviors are self-regulating and are apparently separate from cognition. But what if you took the urge to kill members of your own species, prey on your young, destroy your species chance for genetic continuation and put the regulation of those urges under the control of cognition. What if you depended on taboo and social tradition rather than an instinctive aversion? Well then, you'd be human, only human.
As the blobby people in the beginning point out, not all species use the same regulation systems for controlling reproduction and death as humanoids do. The Doctor says it too, "Humans don't eat their own kind." (Like many invertebrates do).
In the first example, the one I ignored, cognition fails and has a revolting outcome. Ace doesn't realize she's eating people. She's enjoying the meal. It takes an alien outsider, the Doctor, to point out her actions to her. Only then does she comprehend. The forebrain fails to control the buried primitive behavior of eating whatever food is available, even if it's your own kind.
In the second example, a blobby person imitates Ace's memory of her stepfather, who molested her as a child. Boo! I'll admit, that one blind sided me from left field, it seemed. In truth, this scene was setup earlier in the plot. But I ultimately liked it, because it explains so much. At any rate, cognition fails, resulting in monstrosity. The point was to show that humans prey on their own young. Every world culture has taboos against incest because biologically it is harmful to mate too closely. It does not insure clean genetic continuation. Her stepfather clearly lacked the ability to comprehend his own destructive / self-destructive behavior. (The fact that they weren't related is irrelevant to the thematic point).
In the last, the very last, example, cognition fails spectacularly, leading to complete annihilation of the human species. Perhaps the human condition is the ultimate unreliability of late-evolved cognitive control of fundamental biological urges. Perhaps the blobby people ought to win for sticking with the invertebrate way of life. In the human urge to destroy all outside threats (xenophobia - fear of what is different), they create a super-human, in their own image, in their own mind, to kill the blobbies. Their mistake was in programming the prime directive, an absolute irony for the prime directive (not to harm humans) is diametrically opposed to primal human behavior. This sort of conflict could drive any android insane. But an android war machine with a failed prime directive would have all those inherited human behaviors minus any biological, cognitive or programmed constraint. I don't think I need to point out the obvious consequences.
And what about Ace? Well, she got to see the end of her world, the final result of the human condition. And, being only human, the omnipresent reality of her own flaws and the cognitive restraint that prevents her from doing anything but trying to survive.
And now for a comment that will probably surprise Big Finish listeners, Ms Aldred did a bang-up job in this audio. Sound-wise, it reminded me of TV version combined neatly with NA version. Obviously younger, pre-space, but not in that cheesy forced sort of way I can think of from some BF audios. Yet, a bit cranky, snippy and disillusioned as from the NAs. My only complaint is one typical for BBV, the brevity of the story does not allow for very smooth scene transitions, so some emotional bits have very sudden swings between parts. It's not an acting issue though.
We open up with a nice little scene between the Doctor and Ace at the swimming pool. Ace comments on how clean and refreshed a nice dip makes her. The Doctor agrees and asks if she's ready to see her friends.
The Doctor and Ace step outside expecting a nice green earth. But it's not so as they discover that they have landed in a very nasty place. The surface is covered in blood and the building seem to be made of meat. As Ace and the Doctor are about to leave
Cog-wha? I'll admit that it took KP telling me about this to see it (and I had listened to it twice), but once she did, I recognized it instantly. The human mind is funny that way. It absorbs everything but it often takes an outside source to point things out. I suppose that's nice way of saying I'm stupid. Ha heh. But what did I think of the audio before the truth was brought to my attention and I went insane? First off I should say that Sophie Aldred's acting is superbly done. It must be doubly difficult to do such touchy scenes as the confrontation with her "step-father" with nothing but a script and mic in your face. Bravo.
This audio brought forth a lot of character development for Ace; even if you do not, in any way, consider this part of Doctor Who continuity, I think it blends in quite nicely with existing Ace history. With a bit of nudging, perhaps. Along with her finally facing her childhood fears and dealing with them, it seems, there is also a bit of the bent up frustration towards the "Doctor" that I saw develop in the New Adventure series' coming to the surface. This is nice and everything, but it does seem forced right from the get go. Though I'm not being terrible fair; this is one of the first BBV audios I've listened too. Perhaps it had been building in previous audios? If it has I'll come back and change this, if it hasn't, well, there you go.
Overall I thought it was a good listen. If you don't really get the plot it seems kinda of thrown together, with scenes that really don't make sense. The fact that I enjoyed it from the beginning means I might not be so dumb after all. =D