The Next Life (#64)

Big Finish Main Range

There is a seriously sinister buildup with this audio. The Doctor isn’t nearly as concerned about C’rizz and Charley as he normally is, either. And they’re poisoned by the ideas of Rassilon and Kro’Ka. Rassilon, the legend, the crazed idea that is a man. Powerful, intelligent, and wise. And crazy. The story begins with Charley, the Doctor, and C’rizz happily playing the TARDIS. Then they crash on a planet and are rescued for some unknown reason, something that is a plot of Rassilon, that is for sure. How has he gotten around in the Divergent universe without a TARDIS?

All of the characters converge in this divergent universe, tricky that. There are strange moments throughout—is it really that easy to turn the Doctor’s friends against him? Goodness. I know he’s mysterious but Charley went to a whole new universe for him. Though really for herself as she needs him more than he needs her. Or so Rassilon says… Rassilon speaks half-truths, giving the fears of C’rizz and Charley a place too come to the surface. He is good at playing on the fears of others. He’s a big bully, ultimately, using subtle means to undermine people and get his own way. His personality is explored here in relation to a new environment so we don’t see him through the filter of adoration of the other Time Lords. The Doctor knows him as the duplicitous person that he is.

The storyline here is a bit convoluted at times and there is little interaction or explanation of why Rassilon saves Charley and C’rizz. One of the flaws of this tale. And the Doctor doesn’t seem very concerned about his friends, either. Usually that’s the first thing he thinks about when he “washes up” on some sandy shore. The acting is what saves this story as the plot goes off kilter in odd way in odd places throughout. Why doesn’t the Keep just do all of this plotting and finding on his own? The expedition isn’t real so what’s the point? We never find out, really. So this gets a 4 jelloid rating due to the outstanding acting that brings this story into focus.

Curiously enough, Alan Barnes and Gary Russell wrote this audio together. Gary Russell has only ever written audios in conjunction with other writers, which surprises me since he’s so involved otherwise. He and Alan W. Lear wrote Minuet in Hell together. Alan Barnes also wrote Storm Warning, Neverland, andThe Girl Who Never Was, which hasn’t been released as of this writing. All of the Barnes stories I’ve heard are pretty good, thoughNeverlandgot wayyy convoluted and could’ve been better with less confusion. The Next Life manages that confusion bit much better but perhaps that’s Gary Russell’s organizational skills taking it in hand, organizing the overall scope to give it the order it requires to be a good, cohesive whole. It will be fun to compare with The Girl Who Never Was when it comes out, though it will be disappointing to hear Charley’s swan song in the series. There are some companions who have barely started telling their stories and will be sorely missed—Evelyn, Hex, Erimem—while others seem to have run their course—Charley, C’rizz, Peri. Yes, I know Peri won’t be leaving but why not? Evelyn is much more of a balance for Colin Baker’s Doctor than she ever was. Not that she’s a terrible character or companion but without Erimem to shake things up and bring out another side to her, things will just go back to hum-drum on the companion-Doctor relationship there. Boring.

Paul McGann, India Fisher, and Conrad Westmaas--with Paul Darrow, Daphne Ashbrook, and Anneke Willis

Writers: Alan Barnes and G-Russell

Director: G-Russell

Release: December 2004

Laura Vilensky 2019