Liv Chenka’s adventures on Kaldor continue in this third volume of The Robots! The first two series have been some of the strongest material Big Finish have released in the last year… but does the next instalment measure up? Read on to find out!
1. “The Mystery of Sector 13” by Robert Whitelock
This third set of adventures opens with The Mystery of Sector 13. Surprisingly, it doesn’t really pick up on the shocking ending of the previous set, where a Voc called on its brethren to destroy humanity, but instead proposes a new mystery for Liv (Nicola Walker) and Tula (Claire Rushbrook) to investigate.
The sisters are split up for this episode, with Liv heading into the titular Sector 13 to investigate strange goings-on, and Tula remaining at the Company, where she must deal with her demanding boss, Skellen (played by Robert Whitelock, who also wrote this story). I didn’t find either strand of the story particularly gripping, but Liv’s adventure does introduce us to the Vash Sorkov (Jon Culshaw), a mysterious character who appears later in the set.
Overall, I don’t have much to say about this story. There are some intriguing revelations towards the end, but the journey there isn’t all that interesting. It’s far from bad, but to my mind this is probably the weakest instalment in the series so far…
2. “Circuit Breaker” by Guy Adams
As in the last volume, the second story of this set reunites us with Toos and Poul: two characters from The Robots of Death. Similarly, this is also the best story in the boxset. Circuit Breaker by Guy Adams sees Toos and Poul reunite to investigate a strange hotel, where something odd is happening to robots…
Key to the mystery is Ullmann, played wonderfully by Carolyn Seymour. She’s a delightfully enigmatic character through which a lot of interesting material about class divides between the Kaldoran elite and the regular citizens is explored.
The most interesting character in this story, though, has got to be Poul (David Collings). Adams dives deeper into his psyche here, focusing on his fear of robots and the physical and psychological consequences of this. It’s a well-written examination of trauma and anxiety that really helps to flesh the character out.
Overall, I think this is probably the best episode of The Robots so far. Gripping, exciting, thought-provoking, and full of strong characterisation, it had me hooked from start to finish and, days later, I’m still thinking about it. Very strong stuff!
3. “A Matter of Conscience” by Lisa McMullin
The set closes with A Matter of Conscience by Lisa McMullin, which returns to the story of Liv and Tula as the anti-robot terrorists the Sons of Kaldor mount their assault. This episode absolutely has the feel of a finale, with lots of action and some fairly big revelations. No spoilers here, of course, but there’s definitely some game-changing stuff here, and I’d definitely recommend having watched to The Robots of Death before embarking upon this one.
Holly Jackson Walters and Roger May debut here as Shala and Rann respectively, two members of the Sons of Kaldor. After being mentioned throughout the last two sets, it’s good to finally put a human face to the Sons, and Shala in particular helps to achieve this, with McMullin giving her a strong backstory. She also has mysterious ties to Vash Sorkov from the first story in the set, of which I’ll say no more for fear of spoilers…
This story is definitely less standalone than the previous two, with lots of plot points remaining unresolved at the end. This does, of course, leave the listener excited to hear how the story continues in the next set, but it’s a little abrupt. Overall though, this is a strong way to finish the boxset.
This is a fairly strong collection of stories, though probably the weakest boxset in The Robots series so far. While the middle episode is incredibly good, the first and last stories seem to be treading water a little, focused on dropping some major revelations and not much else. Also, the cliffhanger of the previous boxset has basically been ignored; what happened after SV66 called on its kind to rise up against humanity? Overall, a fairly average boxset elevated by a truly brilliant middle episode.
The Robots: Volume 3 is now available on CD or as a download from http://www.bigfinish.com