Guest contributor Kieran Brennan reaches the end of the Eighth Doctor’s third season of audio adventures, with The Twilight Kingdom!
After days of trekking through a thick jungle, the Doctor, Charley and C’rizz are embroiled in an underground terrorist organisation and their societies in an oncoming civil war. But something strange seems to be affecting the mind of everyone within the cave, it’s only a matter of time before it begins to affect our heroes and the clock ticks as they race to stop who, or what, is causing the phenomenon.
The Twilight Kingdom feels very much like a throwback to an older era of Doctor Who. Though, on second thoughts, maybe at the time it was less a throwback and more just a rather standard story. Nevertheless, in a modern context it feels like it’s trying to capture that old feeling of 70s and 80s Doctor Who stories set in isolated rooms where a TARDIS team has been forced apart, each ending up on the opposing sides of a brewing conflict. It’s a nice, if maybe a little tired formula that like a lot of Monthly Adventure releases probably didn’t need to be two hours, but does a serviceable job filling in that time.
Though, maybe it doesn’t. A lot of this story is the Doctor or someone thinking of doing something, then not. Mild spoilers here, but there’s a 10 minute long scene where the Doctor and Charley attempt to escape the cave they’re stuck in only to sort of limply give up and turn around. There’s an in-story explanation for this that is slightly clever, but at the time it doesn’t happen in a “Oh, what’s really going on here” way, rather a “Oh, that was a bit of a waste of time wasn’t it?” way. Perhaps on a re-listen it’ll work better but for now it just seems to remove any momentum the story has been building.
That’s really the big problem here, there’s very little pushing the story forward at any time, for a story set in a new universe with a new companion and one of the most exciting Doctors in Paul McGann, it all feels quite mundane. The first half of the Divergent Universe arc is so odd in this way, two of the stories are really interesting, subversive and clever stories that take full advantage of the situation they’re in, while the other two feel like regular Doctor Who episodes, not necessarily good ones. Now this isn’t The Creed of the Kromon bad at all, it just ends up feeling very skippable.
Now, I’m going a little hard on this. It’s a fine story and a decent addition to the Eighth Doctor’s lineup, it just never really goes beyond being a solid story. The performances are all good, especially newcomer Michael Keating who plays Major Koth, one of the more interesting characters this story brings in. As well as that, the villain of the piece is quite interesting and has a good dynamic with The Doctor that makes the final two parts a fair bit more engaging, even if it does leave the Charley and C’rizz half of the story feel inconsequential in comparison, with neither of them getting anything particularly interesting to do for most of the story.
Everyone else does a fine job, but are a lot more understated for reasons I can’t get into due to spoilers. Still, it doesn’t make for the most exciting listening experience. Oh and a lot of bickering; again it makes sense in context but isn’t the sort of thing I love to hear all the time. I guess that’s the story’s biggest fault, every flaw has a reason but it all ends up not really being worth it.
The Twilight Kingdom is an unfortunately forgettable story despite its interesting ideas that crop up in its second half. By no means a bad story, it’s concepts being stretched over a two hour runtime loses all momentum in the story and creates a less engaging adventure than you’d hope for.
The Twilight Kingdom is available as a download from http://www.bigfinish.com