A couple of months ago, it was announced that the Fifth Doctor would be reuniting with Abby and Zara, the stars of spin-off series Graceless, in Wicked Sisters, a new three-story boxset by Simon Guerrier. The premise immediately intrigued me, but there was one small problem… I’d never listened to Graceless before!
So, when all four volumes of the series went on sale shortly afterwards, I couldn’t resist picking them up. It took me a while to get round to listening but, while travelling from Tokyo to London a couple of weeks ago (my parents live in Japan and I got stranded there when COVID-19 hit!), I decided to try out the first boxset.
And I loved it!
It’s been three weeks since then, though, and I stupidly didn’t write down my thoughts on each episode like I usually do when planning a review. Given that I spent two weeks in government mandated quarantine after my flight, I’ve been listening a lot of Big Finish recently, which means that Graceless 1 isn’t fresh enough in my mind to write a proper review.
I plan to review the remaining three boxsets in full once I’ve listened to them, but it would feel strange to only review 3/4 of the series. Therefore, I’ve decided to write a capsule review of the Graceless 1 before I dive into Graceless 2 later this week. Enjoy!
Graceless: Series 1
The first series of Graceless is divided into three episodes, all written by Simon Guerrier. The set tells an overarching story, but each episode has its own little standalone plot. We open with The Sphere, which takes place on an entertainment complex floating in space. Abby (Ciara Janson) has come here to find her sister Zara (Laura Doddington), only to find her pregnant and in a relationship with the mysterious Marek (Fraser James).
This is a really strong story, succeeding in the way it up the two sisters and Marek, as well as in its unique and well-explored setting. The Sphere is also the darkest of the three stories in the set, dealing with physical and sexual abuse in ways that aren’t always comfortable to listen to. The scene where Abby is beaten by Uncle Lindsay’s guards is utterly chilling to hear, and Guerrier doesn’t downplay the ramifications of what happens, which makes for a thought-provoking listen.
My favourite of the three stories was The Fog, the middle installment of the boxset, which sees Abby (Ciara Janson) and Zara (Laura Doddington) arrive in the town of Compton. The children of the townsfolk have been mysteriously disappearing, and everyone things that Abby and Zara are involved. This is a great premise, and the eventual explanation for the disappearances is satisfying and creative.
This story features David Warner as Daniel, who was my favourite guest character of the set (and not just because he shares my name!). I love David Warner as an actor, so to have him as such a key character in this story only made it stronger for me.
The set closes with the aptly-named The End. Abby and Zara, reunited with Marek, encounter space pirate Kreekpolt (Michael Keating), who wants to use their powers to heal his badly-injured daughter Persephone. Guerrier makes sure to give Kreekpolt appropriate nuance, painting him neither as a hero nor a villain, which is great.
Overall, I’d say this is the weakest story of the three, but it’s by no means bad. Ending on an intriguing cliffhanger, it left me excited to see where Abby and Zara go next…
All in all, Graceless 1 is a fantastic start to the series. Each story is well-written, with some really creative ideas and brought to life with great performances from the entire cast, especially from Ciara Janson and Laura Doddington. My only complaint is that I don’t think Abby and Zara are really distinct enough characters from one another yet, but I’m sure that’ll change as I get to know them more. Otherwise, I really enjoyed this set and can’t wait to hear more.
Stay tuned for a (proper!) review of Graceless 2 later this week!