AUDIO REVIEW: The Entropy Plague

The Entropy Plague
By Jonathan Morris

Starring: Peter Davison, Janet Fielding,
Mark Strickson and Sarah Sutton

Out now

Review by Nick Fraser

There’s a lot to enjoy in The Entropy Plague. The TARDIS crew are forced to join a ragtag bunch of refugees desperately trying to escape from E-Space, while the ravages of entropy take hold. Making another forced landing on the planet Apollyon, The Doctor, Nyssa and Turlough go on the trail to try and find Tegan, following her sudden kidnapping during their escapades on Isenfel.

They find a society under extreme pressure, clinging to survival, yet infused by an almost celebratory sense of fatalism. There’s an escape route available, controlled by scientist Pallister in his citadel, guarded by his small army of sentinels. Departure from Apollyon requires that a macabre price be paid. The Doctor and his friends actually succeed in finding Tegan fairly early on in this adventure - turns out she’s been kidnapped by a crew of space pirates.

And that’s the point where my enjoyment of The Entropy Plague foundered. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with an adventure that mixes things up a bit, and as Doctor Who has demonstrated on countless occasions, bizarre juxtapositions can work very well. However, a swashbuckling, bloodthirsty band, “Ha-HARRRGH”-ing for all they’re worth, speaking in pirate patois: I’m afraid it felt to me as if they’d blundered into the middle of the wrong adventure. It’s perhaps understandable to attempt to bring some levity to what is a bleak and, at times, shocking tale, but I’d have happily enjoyed the adventure without the pirates in it at all.

Pallister exerts an iron control on the only route out of E-Space, or perhaps more accurately, iron-clad, in the form of his steam-and-clockwork powered robots. Robert Duncan brings just the right level of dangerous charm to an individual who has after all, maintained his stranglehold over the Apollyon portal back into N-Space in truly desperate times.

In truth though, the charm runs thin. Pallister has no hesitation in indiscriminately turning the firepower of his robotic sentinels against the refugee populace, the same populace which provides the power source for his portal-controlling machinery, in the truly grotesque form of human batteries. And as if things couldn’t get any worse, there’s the fearful prospect of roving Sandmen, spreading the titular plague amongst the camps outside Pallister’s citadel. Jonathan Morris introduces so many powerful images and concepts into this adventure, providing much for the listener to enjoy.

This really should be Nyssa’s story, considering the eventual outcome. The horror of seeing at close quarters the effects of entropy upon others, particularly knowing what happened to her home planet and the sacrifice she makes for her friends, knowing she’ll never see her children again remind the listener of the ordeals the Trakenite has faced.

It’s a shame then, about those pirates.

Thanks to Big Finish

Review by Nick Fraser

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