As the TARDIS is in mid-flight, Charley watches as C’rizz goes through his personal effects from the Divergent Universe, including an odd glowing vessel, which Charley insists on peering into – and something is released, at about the same time the time machine comes grinding to a halt. C’rizz and Charley rush to the console room, just in time to help the Doctor bring the TARDIS in for a rough landing – after which the ship seems to split apart, with C’rizz disappearing into the void. C’rizz finds himself in the company of a man called Aboresh, who begins to unlock abilities that he didn’t realize he had. The Doctor and Charley, in the meantime, find themselves among a superstitious people, though there seem to be hints of more advanced knowledge among some of the people there. Walled up in a compound surrounded by an energy barrier, this small society defies a creature called the Borarus, which constantly tries to break into the compound. The barrier stops it, but Aboresh – who lives on the outside with those cast out from the compound – now has a powerful new weapon at his disposal: C’rizz. As C’rizz’ powers increase exponentially, he may now be the greatest threat to the Doctor and Charley’s survival.
Cast: Paul McGann (The Doctor), India Fisher (Charley Pollard), Conrad Westmaas (C’rizz), Robert Glenister (Aboresh), Christopher Villiers (Cacothis), Natalie Mendoza (Lolanthia), Tony Barton (Straith), Geoff Breton (Phelgreth)
Timeline: after Memory Lane and before The Girl Who Never Was
LogBook entry and TheatEar review by Earl Green
Review: If you’re trying to avoid spoilers, you should probably go ahead and hit the “back” button on your browser now.
Absolution is the story that says goodbye to C’rizz, the Doctor’s audio-only Eutermesan companion, and paves the way for Charley to depart in the following story, The Girl Who Never Was. So it should come as little surprise that the story focuses heavily on C’rizz. It’s a bit like Planet Of Fire or Earthshock, or the Star Trek: TNG episode Skin Of Evil, in that there’s a sudden focus on this one character who’s leaving.
Only C’rizz doesn’t just leave in Absolution – he dies a tragically heroic death after being led astray for much of the story. The CD extras – a nifty (and relatively new) Big Finish feature that fills out the blank space on the CD with behind-the-scenes interviews with actors (especially the guest stars), writers, the director and so on – make much of C’rizz’s “large fan following,” but sadly, all I could come up with as the Doctor’s chameleonic companion croaked as “well, that’s a shame.” It was actually a nice exit, and I’d say it was a better one than, say, Adric got, but so much of C’rizz’s time in audio Who has been spent not really wowing me that all I had was, well, that little pang of regret.
C’rizz was a really good idea for a character, but with the gimmick at the core of his character – an emotional/psychological chameleon who had to fight to keep his personality and willpower from being subsumed by the personalities and willpower of those around him – having run its course (and having outstayed its welcome when it was brought to center stage as a story point), perhaps poor old C’rizz overstayed his welcome. (The bonus interviews also seem to hint at Big Finish’s writers and producers knowing that C’rizz was living on borrowed time once his Big Secret was revealed.) The “emotional chameleon” gag was an all-or-nothing gimmick at that – not using it left the character bland, but using it all the time would’ve lent itself to what I’ll charitably call the Maya Effect (i.e. having to morph into a tiger, wolf, owl, ferret or fiddygibber every episode just because you can). It’s really all down to how the character was written – actor Conrad Westmaas always gave C’rizz an earnestly likeable feel, so if I’m sorry to see anything go, it’s Westmaas giving his best performance in a role that perhaps wasn’t made to last.
The guest stars in this story have magnificent voices that just drench the whole thing with class – in that respect, Absolution smacks of classic Doctor Who, drawing in distinguished guest actors that elevate the material with their performances alone. Robert Glenister, who appeared in 1984’s TV story The Caves Of Androzani as Salateen (before gaining fame on Life On Mars and Ashes To Ashes), delivers whole buckets of gravitas to the proceedings, as does Christopher Villiers. The whole cast is actually thick with some fairly big names in current British television – the casting for Absolution is an impressive feat in and of itself.
Alas, poor C’rizz. Did he need better scripts or something better than a one-note gimmick at the heart of his character? I suspect the answer lies somewhere in between, but in any case, Absolution is as dignified an exit as he was going to get, and it’s really not a bad way to go, even if he does wind up turning into the devil and then turning into dust along the way.