The Next Life

Doctor Who: The Next LifeA planet appears in the path of the TARDIS, moving so fast that a collision is unavoidable. Charley and C’rizz each awaken in a virtual reality of their past lives, but they each quickly figure out that the Kro’Ka is behind the illusions and are freed. When they awaken, they find not only the Kro’Ka, but Rassilon as well, who claims that he has nursed them back to health after the destruction of the TARDIS. But he shows them that the Doctor has survived as well, and he appears to have found company – a woman who has found him wandering through the jungle of the planet’s sole land mass. Charley and C’rizz both demand to be set free, but before he releases them Rassilon tries to put doubts in their minds about the Doctor – and each other. He’s at least partially successful, as the two TARDIS travelers go their own way in the jungle.

The Doctor, meanwhile, has been captured by a feisty woman who calls herself Perfection, the wife of wealthy, self-proclaimed missionary Daqar Keep. Keep is an egomaniac on a hunt for some lost relic in the same jungle, and he barely tolerates – and is barely tolerated by – one of C’rizz’s people, a leader of the Church of the Foundation known simply as Guidance. He also happens to be C’rizz’s father. The accidental death of one of Keep’s porters leads Keep to blame the Doctor, which entitles the rest of the locals in Keep’s employ to hunt the Doctor down. Perfection, who seems to tolerate her own husband even less than Guidance does, protests and finds herself added to the quarry of the hunt. The Doctor and Perfection soon find Charley, and together they find Charley in a bit of a bind. Soon the Doctor and all of his friends are reunited – but Keep, Guidance, the Kro’Ka and Rassilon soon follow. The end of the Divergents’ universe is drawing near, the TARDIS is the only way back to the universe as the Doctor and Charley know it, and not everyone will be aboard for its next trip. The beginning of the Divergents’ universe will follow, and none will survive it.

>Order this CDwritten by Alan Barnes and Gary Russell
directed by Gary Russell
music by ERS

Cast: Paul McGann (The Doctor), India Fisher (Charley), Conrad Westmaas (C’rizz), Don Warrington (Rassilon), Stephen Perring (The Kro’Ka), Stephane Cornicard (Daqar Keep), Daphne Ashbrook (Perfection), Paul Darrow (Guidance), Jane Hills (L’Da), Anneke Wills (Lady Louisa Pollard), Stephen Mansfield (Simon Murchford), Jane Goddard (Mother of Jembere-Bud), Terry Molloy (Davros)

Timeline: after Caerdroia and before Terror Firma

Original Title: Rassilon

LogBook entry and TheatEar review by Earl Green

Review: So help me, for once, Big Finish has come up with an extended-length epic that needs the extra length to play out. The Next Life is a dandy mystery that brings the threads of all of the 2004 eighth Doctor adventures together, finally tells us who C’rizz is (and even justifies why he has seemed to be so easily possessed/taken over/otherwise swayed since his introduction), and, contrary to Big Finish’s public announcement that they were wrapping up the eighth Doctor arc stories so as not to confuse any new fans who come to Doctor Who by way of the new TV series, indeed resolves most of the Divergent Universe story but leaves us with a whopping big cliffhanger. So much for nixing the ongoing story arcs.

Doctor Who: The Next LifeFirst off, with everything now out in the open about C’rizz, I guess I feel a little bit sheepish about doubting the writers who have been guiding the eighth Doctor’s journey – actually, maybe less sheepish than just dumb, because the hints were obvious. We’ve known that C’rizz has chameleonic abilities since the beginning, but now it turns out that he’s a personality chameleon as well, which makes sense with his other abilities to blend in – he’s capable of assuming some of the personality traits of those around him. In some ways, that makes him a potential risk, and yet a fascinating character. I was pleased to see him return, with the Doctor and Charley, to “our” universe.

The performers, as usual, are top-notch, with some notable guest stars this time around. Daphne Ashbrook, who played McGann’s one-time sidekick Dr. Grace Holloway in the 1996 TV movie, returns in the new role of Perfection, and hearing her distinctive (and, I’ve gotta say, rather sexy) voice once again makes me wish that there were fewer rights and licensing barriers between the TV movie and the rest of the Doctor Who continuity – I would have loved hearing Grace continue her travels with the Doctor. The character of Perfection could hardly be any more different from Grace, but she plays it beautifully. (On the flipside, I grew increasingly irritated with the cute little utterances of the word “grace” in scenes that included both her and the Doctor – yes, we get it already.)

Paul Darrow (Avon of Blake’s 7 fame, appears as Guidance. And, y’know, I love Paul Darrow’s work, generally speaking – even after all these years, he still has that voice, and I’ve been pining for him to appear in some of Big Finish’s Doctor Who audios. (He also be appeared as Lord Cromwell in Big Finish’s audio adaptation of the Luther Arkwright comics.) But his performance here…well, it wasn’t quite what I expected. In some ways, it fit the character of Guidance, who frequently waxes evangelical – he always acts like he’s on the pulpit, even if he’s addressing his own son. I can’t tell if Darrow undermined a perfectly well-written character by playing the entire story on one note, or if the script dictated that the character be played that way and thus failed to inspire the actor. The performance is…a little bit tedious, I’m sad to say.

Doctor WhoDon Warrington returns as Rassilon of course, and he more than makes up for the wasted opportunity of Guidance by breathing malevolent, sibilant life into his character. That Rassilon manages to escape at the end of the story may be good, or it may be bad – if the eighth Doctor’s stories are no longer to be serialized quite so tightly, any rematch would seem to be off-limits. But it’s also entirely possible that Big Finish decided to liberate him to provide a tangibly solid baddie for future Gallifrey audio stories.

The Next Life is what Zagreus and Neverland should’ve been, and as an ending to the Divergent Universe saga, is actually quite satisfying. Now, about that cliffhanger…