Kieran Brennan reviews the next Eighth Doctor and Lucie adventure: Brave New Town!
Landing in the mid noughties, the Doctor and Lucie are quite surprised that everyone around them is insistent on the fact that no, despite what the TARDIS may say, this is not the mid noughties, it’s the early 90s. Well, I suppose the TARDIS has been known to be wrong on occasion, though it is strange that the same song has been number one on the charts longer than anyone cares to remember. As well as that, a girl has gone missing from this small town, but no one really knows how she’d even go about leaving the place, as, well, there aren’t any roads out of the town. Oh well, nothing out of the ordinary here!
I suppose the final line in my quick plot summary for Brave New Town is a bit obvious, but I suppose that’s my main source of issue with at least the first half of the story. For a solid twenty minutes or so the Doctor and Lucie are introduced to this mysterious new town, one that’s clearly out of whack and very obviously has something deeply wrong with it, but it all seems to go over the heads of our leads. Both make acknowledgments that the information they’re being given is strange and doesn’t add up, but they seem to be more in a position of “Oh, this person I’m talking to is rather strange” instead of what you would assume they might be used to by now, which is that there’s something else at play here. It creates an odd sense of cognitive dissonance to see our characters acting, well, out of character, and has the audience screaming for the penny to drop in a way that’s much more frustrating than it is satisfying.
That being said, despite an overlong build up, the actual answers and concepts that are introduced in the second half of the story are extremely satisfying; not enough to be totally forgiven, but enough to justify pushing through to see where we’re going. All of a sudden interesting dilemmas, conflicts and even philosophical and ethical questions are brought up that aren’t usually touched upon in the Eighth Doctor Adventures and would be more likely to be seen on TV. Now look, it doesn’t go as far with these ideas as the actual show probably would, but its a step in that direction that pushes the series forward conceptually as there must be a point where the series can grow beyond a consistently entertaining, but ultimately episodic and inconsequential set of stories.
As far as the cast goes, the supporting characters are notably bland. From just bland characters to just bad accents, little sticks with the listener too long after a first listen. McGann and Smith are of course strong, but perhaps it’s the setting or context of the situation the supporting characters find themselves in that forces their performances to be a little stilted as they build up the mystery of their small town.
Despite a weak opening act, Brave New Town does eventually turn into one of the more interesting stories in the Eighth Doctor Adventures range. A difficult story to rate due to this substantial clash in quality, but if you can push through the weaker half of the story you’ll find something more than worth the effort.
Brave New Town is available as a download from http://www.bigfinish.com