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23/04/2011 12:59 AM

Short Trips - Rise & Fall (BF audio): my review

SHORT TRIPS: RISE & FALL

1 episodes. Approx. 25 minutes. Written by: George Mann. Directed by:
Nicholas Briggs, Ken Bentley. Produced by: David Richardson. Performed
by: William Russell. Released as part of "Short Trips I."


THE PLOT

Deciding that they need a rest after their recent ordeal in Paris, the
Doctor brings the TARDIS to an idyllic hillside on a distant world, a
place where the only life is vegetation and the low-orbiting moon is
visible even in the day. While Barbara and Susan linger in the TARDIS,
the Doctor and Ian step outside and enjoy the unspoiled landscape.
After a few minutes, Ian notices strange, alien faces appearing and
disappearing in front of them. The landscape begins changing before
their eyes in a rush of images. The Doctor cannot explain it, but
studies the phenomenon, truly fascinated.

Meanwhile, a society rises, evolving from an animal state to a tribal
society to a modern one. The process takes thousands of years. This
society has one constant throughout its history: Two unmoving figures
on a hillside, standing near a tall, blue, box-like structure...


CHARACTERS

The Doctor: Manages control of the TARDIS to reach this planet,
something Ian notices right away. He does not specifically indicate
that this is a place with which he's familiar, but he does state that
he's looking for a place where they can rest. He is intent in studying
the phenomenon he and Ian witness, and is suitably thoughtful as he
figures out the truth of what they've witnessed at the end. As in
Transit of Venus, William Russell recreates Hartnell's vocal
mannerisms quite well, even slipping in an amusing beat in which the
Doctor botches Ian's last name.

Ian: Suspects that the Doctor's solicitous turn, finding a spot for
them to rest, is motivated by a desire to convince he and Barbara to
stay. His sharp eyes make him the first to notice the phenomenon. He
grapples with the implications of what he and the Doctor witness, and
he and the Doctor seem to make a silent agreement not to discuss it
with the others. Despite his age, William Russell recaptures Ian's
voice with seemingly little effort. Even moreso than in Transit of
Venus, I had no difficulty picturing Ian as he was in the television
series, as Russell sheds the years from his voice for Ian's lines.


THOUGHTS

The first story of the first release of Big Finish's Short Trips audio
series (following a couple of well-received "subscriber freebies" on
the website). It's an auspicious start, as writer George Mann crafts a
thoughtful story with a tremendous sweep, all while fitting snugly
into a very short running time. William Russell's reading is
outstanding, both in character dialogue and in narration, and the
sparing sound effects are expertly applied in a way that complements
both the story and the era of the show in which it's set. All told, I
can't imagine a better short story that could fit into a 20-odd minute
running time.

The story itself is an almost ideal template for a "Doctor-lite"
story. The Doctor and Ian really aren't in that much of the story,
their actions mainly confined to bookends at the beginning and end.
But in the details of the society that rises and falls around them,
the writer shows the impact the time travellers have. The story could
be seen as an extended example of the observer effect: simply by being
present, the Doctor and Ian have a tremendous impact on the society
they observe.

This is borne out by the scenes we are shown of the society. Their
entire evolution is represented by four short scenes. The scenes
effectively convey the evolution of the society, which mirrors the
evolution of human society from tribal to modern times. But the scenes
also tie this civilization very strongly to the Doctor, Ian, and the
TARDIS, whose importance to these people is shown in ways both
explicit (a father's talk with his son about what they've learned from
"the strangers") and not (the shapes of the buildings, a child's
dolls). Each scene is short, a necessity of the story's length, but
each is vivid enough to make an impression. Audio transitions between
these scenes make it clear that we are "moving on," without lasting so
long as to be annoyances.

The overall effect is thoughtful and more than a little haunting. As a
note to start the Big Finish audio Short Trips, the only problem is
that it may just be impossible to top within this format. An
outstanding story.


Rating: 10/10.