Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Prisoner's Dilemma - Spoilers Included

Time constraints got more tighter and no Angelie means we decide to just do a single audio. With Gallifrey coming up we decide to do something special and pop in "The Prisoner's Dilemma" which I just grabbed from the Big Finish website.

The Prisoner's Dilemma stars Laura Doddington and Sophie Aldred, written by Simon Guerrier and directed by Lisa Bowerman. While it's the latest intallment in the Companion Chronicles it's also part of the new Key 2 Time series being produced by Big Finish.

We open with Ace and Zara getting thrown into the same cell. Zara's freaking out because she knows mind wiping is waiting for them while Ace is her usual cocky self in regards to escaping. Zara then begins to narrate how she came into being and how she's a liar and a killer.

Tim: Holy shit! It's McCoy's music. And a teaser which you normally don't see in a Doctor Who. Ya for new things!

Zara begins to talk about the Key and Tim starts moving his hands around.

Tim: I just remember this segment in the original series with the key spinning around. That's probably what the shimmering sound is.

Ace finds a way to break out of the cell and she and Zara make a run for the border. Their escape attempt fails as the alarm is sounded and they get zapped.

Me: Guess it wasn't such a good idea.

We continue to get Zara's backstory as she relays her first few hours of life after being programmed with the mission to find three segments of the key. Zara is a pretty heavy sneezer as she finds herself allergic to the air within a geodesic dome populated by Stepford Wives and Husbands.

Me: (as Apu) In a geodesic dome.

In the nature vs. nuture debate her blank slate is being filled by some cynical bloke named Zinc who we're constantly told takes advantage of her. This story is broken up with what's happening in the here and now with Ace in the prison.

Zara is apparently a bloodhound as her nose tingles as she gets closer to a segment.

Me: Well, that's an interesting way to find them.

Tim: She'll probably sneeze real hard and impale herself on it.

She finds a way to get to the segment which is apparently under the water. As she continues her story she relates seeing a man who's the 7th Doctor watching her, looking on disapprovingly. Zara reaches into the water to get the segment and bad things happen.

Tim: It sounds like she's a tracer. That's great they kept the sound effect.

She's basically boiled the water which leaves a huge mud pit where the lake was and plenty of dead fish and people. Naturally the local authorities aren't down with that and Zara is arrested, bringing us back to how sends up in the cell with Ace. Zinc ditching Zara leads Zara to sell Ace down the river as Ace tries to pull a Doctor to get out of the situation. The episode ends with Ace screaming about how she's trying to save the world and if her memory is wiped everyone will die.

Me: Could just be me, but I'd actually explain what I'm trying to do if my memory is about to wiped instead of just saying we're all gonna die.

Episode two begins and this time Ace is the narrator. She begins recounting a tale where she, the Doctor, and a woman with earrings who knew a lot about dead things were trying to recover a time bracelet stolen by Zinc and his wife, Magda, from the Trib museum. I begin to grin and stamp my foot as Ace talks about the woman and how Ace's mom brought a man to a wedding that Ace had also managed to snog.

Tim: I don't get the reference.

Me: It's Benny!

Tim: Oh. Okay. I guess if I had focused on the mention of dead things I'd have gotten it. The earrings threw me. I knew what Florana was.

Ace manages to infiltrate Zinc and Magda's partnership and we eventually learn how Zinc gets to Zara and where he goes when he's left her. He and Magda develop a plan that will destroy Aratune and since Ace mentioned her skill at demolitions want her to do the dirty work. Instead Ace makes enough of a scene to get arrested in the hopes of being able to alert the authorities to Zinc and Magda's plans. But as we're reminded from the rehash of episode one that plan doesn't work out so well.

Ace continues to recount how her memories were getting sucked out, every last precious memory.

Me: They even took the last can of Who hash!

Zinc apparently saves the day, rescuing Zara and Ace. Zara returns to narrating the story and explains how she and Zinc retrieve the segment to the Key and leave Ace and Magda to take the fall. Ace escapes and ends up being rescued by the 7th Doctor. Magda gets her mind wiped while Zinc and Zara go off to be Bonnie and Clyde. Or at least Zara goes off to be Bonnie as the rocket gets launched. Ace starts to wonder what Zara has done to her, Zinc, and Magda.

Me: She's fucked you all.

Ace gets rescued by the Doctor again while Zara is heading off to go hunting for the segments with Zinc in tow. We get an explanation why all the Stepford Wives and Husbands were doing their tasks as it was part of the safety system the planet has in place. The Doctor takes Ace off to the TARDIS to hopefuly retrieve her memories and explains not to worry about Zara, that he knows how it all ends.

We get a big surprise as we stumble upon the interview Simon does with Laura, Sophie, and Lisa.

Tim: Apparently the Doctor takes all his women to the Eye of Orion. It's oddly different. Lisa's right in that it's a big audio book with an extra person so it's taking some getting used to. I was of the understanding that these chronicles were a way to have stories involving Doctors who are dead or in the case of Tom Baker unwilling to play ball. To have a McCoy era story is kind of odd to me, but with his character being so mysterious and manipulative being underplayed, as a silent character in the background sort of works.

Me: I'm not sure what I was expecting as this is even strange by Companion Chronicles standards with two narrators. It's almost Rashomon in nature.

Tim: It's hard to explain. Maybe if I had heard the other Key 2 Time first and got introduced to Zara that way it might've been a bit easier to see this as a multi-doctor story without the Doctor. As it is it just seems like Ace's story with Zara along for the ride, but that's because I'm more used to Ace. I'm Ace biased. It's nothing against the writing.

Me: I defnitely enjoyed it, especially all the little references like Cheldon Boniface and the unammed Benny bit. A very capable directing job by Lisa Bowerman who having also directed some of the other Key 2 Time stories does a great job in making sure Zara is not the same as we see her in the other audios. As always Sophie is able to seemingly go back in time to be the Ace we all know and love from twenty plus years ago without cojuring the image of an Ace in her forties, if that makes sense. Laura Doddington moves easily from crazy, evil Zara to the innocent newborn that we first see her as.

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