Saturday, 20 March 2010
Okay, I'm not going to carry on reviewing every single Big Finish audio drama I listen to because, frankly, I can't see anyone enjoying that. But I felt that 'Jubilee' was worthy of an exception (and I'm not saying that I will stop the reviews completely from now on. I've already potentially earmarked Marc Platt's 'Spare Parts' for a possible write-up, once I've listened to it obviously).
Anyway 'Jubilee' deserves a review for two important reasons: 1) it's really bloody good and 2) it was later adapted by writer Rob Shearman into the equally excellent series 1 episode 'Dalek'. Now I'm going to assume that all of you have seen 'Dalek' otherwise my spoiler containment will get Just Plain Ridiculous.
So 'Jubilee' shares a fair few similarities with 'Dalek' - most obviously the (apparently) last Dalek in the universe being kept imprisoned for a nefarious purpose and a pretty amazing scene where the Doctor meets said Dalek, not to mention some of the most inventive exploration of the motivations of the Daleks. However, pretty much everything else is different. I don't want to spoil too much, as it really is a great story, but the basic premise involves a mysteriously anachronistic English Empire planning to execute the last remaining Dalek for the benefit of its 100th jubilee celebrations.
From here on it's a pretty complex ride. I read a review somewhere that claimed there was so much going on in 'Jubilee' that it was difficult to keep track of everything on first listen. While I wasn't confused as such, this is definitely a drama that would be equally rewarding on subsequent listens. As well as the complex philosophical examinations on the nature of Daleks, there's also some top quality Doctor Who style time confusion (which I'm always fond of), serious points about the nature of humanity and history and possibly one of the best cliffhangers in Doctor Who history. Seriously, it points you in a certain direction and then completely blindsides you with an amazing revelation. It stunned the hell out of me when I first heard it. And, as usual, the performances are great all round (Martin Jarvis is particularly impressive).
All in all, Jubilee is an impressive piece of work - rich, densely layered, and thought-provoking. It's probably the grimmest and darkest audio drama I've listened to, but not overwhelmingly so - there's some nice levity scattered throughout, including an almost self-rerencing joke about Dalek merchandising, that stops it being too depressing. Ultimately 'Jubilee' is a great example of what Big Finish, indeed what Doctor Who itself, does best.