GHOST IN THE MACHINE
Written by Jonathan Morris
Starring Katy Manning
Directed by Louise Jameson
When Jo finds the TARDIS mysteriously empty, she steps outside into the eerie darkness, only to find The Doctor unconscious with the TARDIS log in his possession. Using it to keep track of events, she soon discovers she is on some kinds of research station. But things begin to take a spookier, surreal and more sinister turn when Jo finds herself alone and trapped, with no way out…
Big Finish has been responsible for many extraordinary bits of storytelling over the years, expanding the worlds of Doctor Who, Blake's 7 and many others in the process. But this piece truly understands its form and genre and uses it to the very best of its abilities. Jonathan Morris manages to weave a twistingly clever, yet scary, narrative, which is full of lovely characterful elements and humour in the hands of the cutely ditzy Jo Grant. Its a very intelligent tale, but it has a very clear and easy to grasp premise and path through the story. Kudos has to go to Louise Jameson's direction and the sound design of the piece, which makes full use of the audio medium and manages to completely immerse you in its soundscapes.
There were numerous connections that came to mind. Obviously, there is a Blair Witch feel and those early scenes echo Planet of the Daleks. But beyond that, the bigger philosophical elements, identity switching and Benjamin’s Chikoto’s message on the nature of the research facility feel vaguely reminiscent of television series Lost (especially those Dharma Initiative orientation videos). But it’s really how this mirrors the sorts of ideas, unsettling tone and style echoed in some of PJ Hammond's best Sapphire and Steel assignments. This makes it downright spooky and even surreal in parts and remains all the more engaging as a result.
Damian Lynch provides a sterling turn in his many roles. But, Katy Manning deserves very special praise. It’s a really remarkable tour de force, carrying the weight of the story on her shoulders. Katy takes us right back the UNIT era, with an engaging performance that utterly reminds us why we love Jo Grant so much. She recaptures that kookiness, endearing warmth and vulnerability that's mixed in with a determination and bravery. But it’s the variety of characters she undertakes, making each one distinct, different and completely three-dimensional. It shows just what a talented and accomplished actress she truly is. This even includes her take on The Doctor (where she completely nails Pertwee's mannerisms and speech patterns.
Because of how this intrinsically uses the audio within the plot, it manages to really draw the listener into this unsettlingly spooky story. As a result, it pushes this companion-focused drama beyond the norm and remains a very unique piece of audio storytelling, even by Big Finish's very high standards.
BLOGTOR RATING 9/10
Thanks to Big Finish
Thanks to Big Finish