First off, stuff's gonna be spoiled in this entry. If you're not down with spoilers stop reading when I get to the actual episode critique part of this entry. I don't want anyone reading this to get to the first spoiler I bust out with and go, "You suck, Redo". You may say that anyway but I rather it be over my opinion, not that I ruined the plot for you.
If you read the entry last week regarding the full Time Team being on hiatus until November you might remember I talked about doing side trips with other parts of the BF back catalog. For like a minute I initially toyed with doing End of the World but quickly shot it down, thinking that it wouldn't be fair to do this one without the rest of the team even though we won't get to this for a couple of years. I ordered this last week the first day it became available through WhoNA and finally got it into my hot little hands this morning when I got to work. (All the important stuff is sent to me there and I was out of the office on Friday.) About halfway thru I realized that I would have to jump ahead personally and give this a go ASAP. I'm terribly afraid my opinion will change in time and when we hit this as a group I might not feel the same way that I do today.
On the topic of spoilers I will admit I availed myself of them thanks to the Outpost Gallifrey forum. It was my own decision, I being the kid that always had to hunt down my presents before Christmas or any other day that involved the exchange of gifts. And with living in the States it means I'm normally waiting a month after the release in the UK to lay my hands on CD's here. On the one hand I hate myself for spoiling the ending and how it's achieved because a bit of the emotional impact was lost. On the other hand considering I didn't leave work until two and a half hours after normal quitting time and the way the afternoon overall went it's probably good I knew what was coming. I was frustrated and crabby enough as it was.
With that being said the spoilers are about to come so here's your last warning. Also parental discretion advised as language used may not be suitable for viewers of all ages.
Among the many things Simon Guerrier said he wanted to achieve with this season was the paring down of the Benny mythology which prior to this season was rather voluminous. When this came out I mentioned to a friend of mine that the easiest way to pare it down would be to start ratcheting up the body count. And between this and The Judas Gift I've been proven right.
Before I begin the lovefest that this blog is destined to become there was one part that I just couldn't get into which is Caroline Lennon as Mira. There was just something about her voice that did nothing for me. It wasn't enough to completely detract from the piece, but in light of the other performances it clearly was the weakest. And it makes me sad that there's actually something that I have to complain apart regarding this episode.
The teaser shows Dave Stone at his taking the piss out of the conventions of the medium best. It's a throwaway moment that really means nothing in the grand scheme of things as what's supposed to be a moment of danger becomes almost an ad for Octopus Onion Rings. The piss taking continues as Jason figures the audience is waiting for the theme song and implores those behind the fourth wall to start it.
It starts and it's awesome. They gave Jason his own theme music to keep with the theme of this being a Jason Kane adventure instead of a Bernice Summerfield adventure. And how crukking cool is that? It's a bit of a Bond pastiche that fits with the character overall. Definitely gonna rip it into my mp3 player for jogging music.
Jason begins to talk about his past and how white, nice, and middle class they were. The bit about getting the word processor is ingenious as we get a whole string of motherfuckers being deleted by the recording device inbetween Jason slamming the thing when he gets frustrated at how advanced it is had me laughing out loud. But in between typical moments we see a side of the character we hadn't really been privy to up to this point, a side that only Dave Stone could show us. It's clear early on that Dave Stone comes through in presenting a definitive Jason Kane, an aim Simon asked him to achieve.
We get through some stuff with Mira and Jason talking about how he feels things are out of whack. Eventually they end up at the Tartarus Gate and hook up with Jason's former boss in the Infernal Nexus, Azagrazar. A nice cameo by Paul Chahidi which made me wish we'd seen a bit more of him and less of Mira. We find out the extent to which Brax has messed with Jason's and Clarissa Jones' timeline and Jason heads off to put things right.
The first point is reached and we get a retelling of the bar scene from Death and Diplomacy where Jason tells Benny about his shitty father. Here we get a cameo from Lisa who does a bit of double duty in at least this scene between acting and directing it. Over the years I've reread this scene and while the past few times I've had Fewell and Bowerman's voices in my head it pales in comparison to them actually acting this scene out.
And here we hit Redo Nearly Crying Moment Number 1.
Those that know me will tell you that while I'm not completely heartless I'm not the most warm and cuddly either. An image that's been finely honed at work (funeral home) so that on the rare moments a co-worker sees any kind of wetness near my eyes they almost fall down in shock. I say this in way of showing how rare it is for me to be that emotionally affected by any sort of media. And with the retelling of this scene we get an added layer of emotion that adds to the horror that was Jason's childhood.
Eventually he remembers Lucy and along with the rest of the fans that have been following things at least as long as Death and Diplomacy we all wonder how he forgot about her. Here's where we hit Redo Nearly Crying Moment Number 2 as he goes back to make things right for Lucy. I hope we get a chance, maybe in a short story anthology, to see if what Jason did was enough for her. Especially in light of what happens to him at the end.
Speaking of which we get the confrontation between him and Brax, something that I've been waiting to happen since the events of The Crystal of Cantus. Brax basically tells his whole scheme and then we hit the Redo Nearly Crying Moment Number 3 where Peter walks in and Brax convinces him to kill Jason. It's the only moment where I actually teared up as while Jason is being killed he's imploring Peter to remember and that he forgives him. That was utterly heartbreaking and while it's probably cliche also completely diabolical on Brax's part.
The end with Brax asking Peter what he's done and no end music is brilliant. Though I must say I found myself driving home mad that it was slightly reminiscent of the end of Earthshock as there's no music to somehow make us feel sad that Adric's dead. Much of the differing bits within the Benny mythology are put to rest but if Benny thought Peter was gonna need therapy at the end of The Loyal Left Hand in Nobody's Children boy is he gonna need some time with Dr. Phil now. This could be mined for years to come and since the guys behind the Benny line haven't failed me yet I'm sure they will.
I have said this before and I will say it again, this is probably Stephen Fewell's finest performance in the Big Finish universe to date. This season especially he's been given scripts that allow him to just bust out one superb performance after another. It's almost ashame that he's got to get in what one would assume is his final performance as Jason save The Final Amendment to probably get his best script to work with. Hopefully this isn't the last we see of him as an actor within the Big Finish stable, especially considering since he was one of the first, paving the way for what's come in the years since Beyond The Sun came out.
Along with much praise for Fewell I have to give mad love to Dave Stone. He's seem to have found a home for his special brand of writing in the audio medium and it's ashame that Big Finish hasn't used him more. This is only his third script overall and considering the only time they employ him is to write scripts involving Jason it might be his last. That being said one could say that if we ever see him in a lineup of authors for an upcoming season they're retconning Jason's death.
Lisa Bowerman did a wonderful job directing. Just enough to hit the right emotional note without being too maudlin. Matthew Cochrane and David Darlington provide an awesome music suite that's given it's own chance to shine as a track at the end of the CD.
Overall, this tops The Crystal of Cantus in my personal list of top ten Big Finish audios.