Main Range 31 – Embrace the Darkness

Wow. I love this audio, but find the first half absolutely terrifying— far more than Chimes of Midnight, in which I guessed the antagonist quite early.

Have a trailer.

The Doctor and Charley go on a quest to discover what happened to a lost civilisation whose sun suddenly vanished. They fall afoul of an automated rescue ship en route to the dead planet, where a human crew has stirred up ancient horrors. The rescue ship’s computer has such strict and stifling security protocols that it’s almost as great a menace as the unknown threat below.

“ROSM, my best friend could be in trouble, so if you want to keep me here, you’re just going to have to shoot me.”

A lot of the fun of this story (if one can call it fun) is the Doctor’s verbal fencing match with the obstinate computer, using fast-talking, flippant patter and shrewd logic to keep it from killing the intruders.  Charley is strong in this too, compassionate, intelligent, and stubborn, refusing to let the Doctor shove her out of harm’s way while he faces danger alone. The crew, on the other hand, are something of a drag on the story, especially the captain with the fake Russian accent. One can understand her pessimism, as they’ve been badly traumatised, but there are long stretches where one wants to shove a pie in her face. On the other hand, it’s refreshing to have guest characters who don’t think the Doctor’s the enemy but also don’t think much of him.

The monsters in this story are… fascinating. I’m not sure any of the science is remotely plausible, but it works as a Who plot, with suspense, horror, urgency, danger, and one of those classic “Oops, Doctor, you just ruined everything” cliffhangers.

Some original science fiction ideas. Some unique twists. There’s even a few moments of humour in the midst of the body horror and darkness. The action sags in part four, and there’s a bit of padding at the end, or I’d rate it an 8. Nevertheless, I enjoyed this audio just as much the second time around.

Spoilerific Commentary

My main problem with this story is that the Doctor really should have figured out that the critters on the planet had a good reason to be attacking light. Once he determined they were acting in fear and ignorance, not out of hostility, and he saw that they were trying to repair the harm they’d caused, he should have talked, not activated the suns. I suppose the rescue ship’s life support systems were failing, but I still found that frustrating.

Also, the Solarian archaeologist was an amusing moment in an otherwise fairly grim adventure.