Guest contributor Kieran Brennan enters the Divergent Universe with Doctor Who: Scherzo
Scherzo is best listened to blind, so if you think you might pick up this story I’d advise skipping this review. There will also be spoilers for all pre-Scherzo adventures including and most especially Zagreus.
It’s a whole new universe for the Doctor and Charley. New planets, new people, new adventures. Though perhaps not. Perhaps the air is poisonous. Perhaps no planets have formed yet. Perhaps the human mind cannot comprehend what this universe is. It’s a whole new universe, and anything can happen.
Scherzo is the second and final time Robert Shearman would write for the Eighth Doctor and once again he gives us a breathtaking, emotional, scary, tense, brilliant adventure that genuinely rivals The Chimes of Midnight and perhaps tops it as far as my favourite Big Finish story and favourite Eighth Doctor story. I don’t know how, but he’s done it again.
Set entirely within a white void, this entire adventure is The Doctor and Charley walking. That’s it. There’s no sounds, no voice actors aside from Paul McGann and India Fisher and not much of what one might call a plot. The Doctor and Charley have confessed their love for each other and Scherzo deals with the consequences of that and Charley stowing away to this new universe. More than any other Big Finish story I’ve listened to, Scherzo is a character study. An intimate look at the relationship between the Doctor and Charley.
We see sides to both characters, particularly the Doctor, that we rarely ever see. Anger, guilt, jealousy, pettiness, sulking, laughing, loving etc etc. It’s a fascinating script and idea, one that anyone creative has had at some point. “What if there was a whole episode of just talking”. C’mon, you know you’ve pitched the idea in your head of an episode where the Doctor just chills around the TARDIS with his companion, having a chat. It’s always great in our minds, but realistically only the most talented of writers and performers could ever dare to pull this off.
It’s says a lot about Shearman’s level of quality that he was even allowed to attempt such a story. And it’s perfect. He knows when to pull back, when to let emotions rise and fall, when to skip ahead in time and when to disorient the listener. He knows exactly how many of his cards to show at any time, and brilliantly uses the Doctor as a way to hide his true intentions. Oh the Doctor has a theory about this place? Well, then I’ll try to figure out what’s happening based on what the Doctor has said. Then, of course, moments later the Doctor will change his mind and you’re lost in the dark once again, just as he is. It’s a genius way of getting into the head of the listener, not giving them misinformation, but presenting correct information in an incorrect way through a character we absolutely trust. It makes for an exciting listen as well as humanising the Doctor.
Oh and if you really needed me to say it, this may be both India Fisher’s and Paul McGann’s finest performance yet. Again. I say this so often, it’s almost frustrating. Just when I think there’s a limit on how high they can raise their material, they set the bar even higher. Their chemistry, their relationships it’s just so… I can’t even describe it. Look, if you’ve listened to any of the last few stories I’ve talked about you know exactly what I mean and if you haven’t… what are you doing?
Scherzo is an absolute triumph. Easily one of Big Finish’s finest releases, Scherzo is an endlessly creative and incredibly emotional piece that serves as the perfect epilogue to the Eighth Doctor’s first arc in Big Finish, and the perfect prologue to whatever may come next.
Scherzo is available as a download from http://www.bigfinish.com