The Eleven is back in this brand-new boxset of three audio adventures… and this time he’s going up against the Sixth Doctor and his trusty companion Constance Clarke! Read on for our review!
1. “One for All” by Lizzie Hopley
The Doctor (Colin Baker) and Constance Clarke (Miranda Raison) discover an abandoned TARDIS floating in space. Within, they find a scene of destruction… and evidence that a wedding has recently taken place. Travelling to the planet Molaruss, the two soon meet the bride: Miskavel (Lucy Gaskell), a mutant alien from a long-dead world. But where is her husband, the dastardly Time Lord known as the Eleven?
The Doctor and Constance soon find themselves split up from one another, forced to navigate deadly dangers on this strange new world. Molaruss is home to a race of duo-minds, twin consciousnesses trapped in one body, and someone is out to harness their power for their own evil ends. But it’s not quite who you’d expect…
One for All, written by Lizzie Hopley, is a great opener to this boxset, with a strong plot, and an even stronger focus on worldbuilding. By the end of this tale, the world of Molaruss is very clearly defined, with the concept of duo-minds and the way they function explained in a simple and effective way. The characters of the Eleven and Miskavel are also well-introduced; while the latter is a brand-new creation, the former has appeared before in the Eighth Doctor Adventures range, but Hopley’s deft writing ensures that you needn’t have heard any of those stories to enjoy this boxset.
Colin Baker and Miranda Raison excel as the Doctor and Constance, with Hopley’s script really bringing out the best in their characters by splitting them up. Baker gets to show all side of the Doctor’s character- from his kindheartedness when looking after an upset Miskavel to his indignation during the inevitable confrontation with his old enemy- while Raison is fantastically defiant as Constance faces off against the Eleven for the first time. Meanwhile, Mark Bonnar continues to impress as the multifaceted Eleven, and Lucy Gaskell makes a stunning debut as Miskavel, giving a layered performance that constantly wrongfoots the listener and proves her more than a match for Bonnar’s vocal talents.
Overall, the first half of this story is undeniably stronger than the more plot-focussed second half, but the effortless way in which Hopley introduces the world and characters that the next two episodes will explore means that One for All is nonetheless a fantastic way to open the set.
2. “The Murder of Oliver Akkron” by Nigel Fairs
Now then, what’s this? A Doctor Who story… without the Doctor! Forget Doctor-lite stories, The Murder of Oliver Akkron is completely Doctorless, focussing on the Eleven as he furthers his plan to take control of Molaruss. Most of this episode takes place in a single room, with the Eleven taking tea with the president of Molaruss, though there’s a (sadly slightly dull) subplot in a Molarussian laboratory which crops up from time to time.
While the actual set-up of the story is quite simple, the plot itself is actually fairly layered, with lots of little hints that add up to the overall mystery. It’s mostly a series of two-handers, which makes an interesting change of pace from the more frenetic opening and closing episodes of the set, but it is perhaps a touch overlong. I feel like this episode would definitely benefit from a relisten, with the knowledge of what’s actually going on.
The titular Oliver Akkron is brought to life by Simon Slater, who expertly brings out the measured, but slightly sneering attitude with which Fairs’ script imbues the character. Meanwhile, Mark Bonnar excels as a more restrained Eleven, and Lucy Gaskell makes a welcome return as the scheming Miskavel.
Overall, this story is an interesting experiment with some great performances and some lovely scenes throughout, but one that suffers from being a little sluggish in the middle. The highlight is definitely Mark Bonnar‘s turn as a slightly different version of the Eleven, and his excellent interplay with Slater’s Akkron.
3. “Elevation” by Chris Chapman
The Doctor and Constance return to Molaruss in the final instalment of this boxset, Elevation, where they discover that, since their last visit, a lot has changed. The Eleven is Global President, with Miskavel as his loving consort, and it seems that the people of this planet love him. After all, a leader with eleven different personalities is capable of seeing political decisions from every single point of view. But, as usual, the Eleven has a something nasty up his sleeve, something that will anger both the Doctor and his loyal subjects.
This story, written by the ever-reliable Chris Chapman, has an incredibly strong premise. What if the Eleven was actually a good ruler? The first half explores much of this, with the Doctor and Constance being surprised at just how peaceful Molaruss is after their old enemy’s takeover. Predictably, however, there are a couple of complications, both for the Doctor and for Constance.
Miranda Raison gives her best performance yet in this story, being given a real challenge as an actor and absolutely rising to it. Constance gets some lovely development and, while I won’t say what it is here for fear of spoilers, it’s something that really helps to show off more sides of her character than we’re used to. Baker, Bonnar and Gaskell also put in strong performances, but it’s Raison who really shines here.
While, as in the previous two stories, I thought this one dwindled a little near the end, Elevation is overall another really strong instalment in a great boxset, wrapping up the plot threads introduced in One for All and The Murder of Oliver Akkron, while also introducing exciting new elements that really, ahem, elevate this particular episode. Fantastic stuff.
Above all else, The Eleven is a masterclass in worldbuilding, with Hopley, Fairs and Chapman taking the concept of Molaruss, and effortlessly crafting it into a fully-formed, fleshed-out place. The individual stories, while nothing particularly groundbreaking, are all nonetheless quite strong, brought to life by the electric central cast of Colin Baker, Miranda Raison, Mark Bonnar and Lucy Gaskell. Highly recommended.
Doctor Who: The Eleven is available on CD or as a download from http://www.bigfinish.com