Doctor Who: Big Finish – The Judgement of Isskar Episode Two review

Stephen catches up with the latest episode of Doctor Who's Key 2 Time season, from Big Finish...

We find ourselves back on Mars for Episode Two of the first Key 2 Time Big Finish audio. Our travelling companions are the Doctor, his companion, the specially constructed creation ‘Amy’, who is now a few hours old, her ‘sister’ Zara, and Zara’s own companion Harmonious 14 Zink.

With the cliffhanger crisis averted, episode two starts off confidently enough but rather early on it displays its painful knack for jumping between scenes in ways that are crying out for a better script editor or sound editor; for example, when a flying machine seems to appear, and then suddenly – after a great deal of noise – some of our protagonists are apparently aboard it. Only the dialogue (eventually) makes this clear. The writer and the producer could perhaps do with realising that, despite audio being an extremely versatile medium, sometimes a line or two of explanatory dialogue don’t go amiss.

The same applies for the scene later on when the Doctor and Amy arrive at a new location. All seems normal upon their arrival, but suddenly we don’t hear them anymore, and instead are privy to a conversation between Mesca, Thetris and Wembik, inhabitants of the new world. We are to presume that they are in, or are near to the Doctor’s location, but again this is not made clear for some time.

It is also here that the drama falls apart somewhat. Whereas the ailing Mesca is quite well played and Wembik is middling, Thetris is little but an annoying barrage of distorted yelling. His dialogue could well be the finest since Euripides, but we will never know as huge chunks of it are entirely inaudible due to the heavy effects and really rather poor acting of Jeremy James as Thetris who seems to think that by shouting he will be doing proper acting.

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Towards the end of the episode, a torture scene gets a little too heavy with the comedy touch, but this is somewhat redeemed in the same scene with a fascinating look at the society in which we now find ourselves. Writer Simon Guerrier excels himself here by providing such an insightful and well crafted out dissection of this alien culture. In the same way, he also excelled himself earlier with regards to bolstering the background of the character of Zink, but to comment further would invite spoilers.

Overall, the effect of this episode is somewhat middling compared to the strong opener. The writing is mostly very good, but is let down by jarring transfers between scenes and some pretty shocking acting. Fingers crossed that the writing is more to the fore than the bit players in Episode Three!