AUDIO REVIEW: Second Chances

Second Chances
by John Dorney

Starring Wendy Padbury

Out Now

Review by Nick Fraser

A story featuring one of the Doctor’s brightest and perkiest travelling companions, Second Chances is a bleak tale, exploring the consequences of the Time Lords’ decision to alter Zoe Herriot’s memories of her time with the second Doctor, following his trial at the end of The War Games. Writer John Dorney revisits the impact such a cruel and unusual punishment has upon a character whose defining characteristics were her prodigious computational ability and eidetic memory.

What’s worse is that Zoe is aware of the lacuna but is unable to fill it, having to rely instead on the questionable services of “The Company” to help her. Big Finish audios unfold within a larger arena and there are references to other events involving Zoe and The Company. Foreknowledge is not necessary however, and the audio can be enjoyed as a standalone.

Under interrogation by Company employee Kim, an expert in memory retrieval, Zoe attempts to revisit the events of an encounter in the Saturn system involving the Doctor, Jamie and her younger self, arriving on space station Artemis. Wendy Padbury provides a good characterisation of the Second Doctor, and it’s affecting to hear the contrasting portrayals of the bubbly, enthusiastic younger Zoe as her latter day counterpart narrates her recollection of events. There’s good support provided by Emily Pithon as Kim, whose motivations are gradually revealed to be rather more complex than first appear.

There’s a dark secret contained at the heart of Apollo Station, Artemis’s twin, which is unwittingly released to deadly effect: a computer virus with the ability to spread between computer and human alike. The spread of the contagion to Artemis is chillingly realised in audio format, with the growing sense of panic and dread very effectively conveyed. Events are narrated by the older Zoe in the present tense, lending an authentic urgency to the doomed attempts to save the station from sharing the same fate as that met by Apollo.

Second Chances provides a shift in perspective midway through the story, when it’s revealed that Apollo Station has only just been destroyed and that the events of Zoe’s past are in fact playing out during her older persona’s present. Zoe and Kim set off to prevent the destruction of Artemis Station.

They arrive, in the guise of Company agents, in time to see the Doctor, Jamie and younger Zoe become involved in events. In her increasingly desperate attempts to alter the course of those events Zoe gradually comes to realise that Kim is a lot more involved than she first realised. The central theme of the story, the battle between redemptive free will against pre-determination, comes to the fore and Zoe’s options are locked down one by one as we race towards Artemis’s inevitable destruction.

Another strong production from Big Finish, rounding off the Companion Chronicles series in thought-provoking style.

Thanks to Big Finish

Review by Nick Fraser

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