Big Finish has decided to change up the way they deliver the Companion Chronicles range; by releasing box sets focussing on the earliest Doctors. This week, Big Finish brought out a box set comprising of four stories from the Second Doctor’s era. Today, we review the third story of four, The Integral!
When tempers fray in the TARDIS, the Doctor struggles to help Jamie and Zoe resolve their differences. Arriving at Aspen Base proves a welcome distraction; but the isolated facility is under siege. Can Jamie’s belief in right and wrong withstand the perspective changing power of the Integral?
It’s not often that you enter a Big Finish story mid-argument, but that is exactly how The Integral begins. Jamie and Zoe are debating whether or not every alien ever is intent on invasion. Jamie, as he is more of a TARDIS and time travelling aficionado than Zoe is, firmly believes that they are; whereas Zoe thinks that it’s statistically impossible that every single alien wants to invade and conquer.
The Doctor soon decides to intervene by telling Jamie that he’s wrong, albeit in a roundabout way. It’s understandable from Jamie’s point of view; in his experience, every alien is seemingly hellbent on wanting to intervene, and his Eighteenth Century mindset has seemingly made him less understanding, compassionate and willing to admit that he’s wrong.
The Doctor, Zoe and Jamie find themselves in a hospital type of facility, and it’s not long before they realise that something’s up. Of course it was. The TARDIS gang watch as someone called Morgan, who was receiving treatment from Doctor Edvard, seemingly gets tortured. Doctor Edvard seems to be written exactly like a Classic Who bad guy; or in this case, bad gal.
As someone who is absolutely needlephobic and hates anything to do with operations or piercing the skin, I have to admit that just the descriptions of the ‘treatment’ began to make me queasy. At least it goes to show that whilst writing this story, David Bartlett knew exactly what he was talking about.
Jamie’s behaviour is extremely erratic in this story; going from one being extremely calm and collected to being irate, aggressive and harsh.
On the cover of The Second Doctor Volume One, we see a brain in a jar; this is the story that features that brain in a jar. It’s a proper sci-fi looking creature. Well done Simon Holub for designing that cover; it’s beautiful and bronze.
Considering that most of this story is about Jamie’s attitudes towards aliens, and assuming that they’re all intent to cause malice, I think it’s rather interesting that seemingly all of the narration, in the first episode at least, is from Zoe’s point of view. I have to admit that having a story focus on a character whilst it’s being told from the point of view of a secondary character is really interesting; especially in the context of The Integral, as it allows for the audience to witness Jamie’s actions without fully understanding his reasoning to do so.
The brain in the jar, known as the Integral, is a being that can not only read minds to extract useful information (which would be great for uni), but can also induce a state of calm (which would be great for uni too). I wish there was an Integral at uni.
The Integral itself reminds me a lot of the Handbots in The Girl Who Waited, especially as they seem slightly too helpful for their own good. Whereas the Handbots wanted to help you get cured from a virus, the Integral wanted to cleanse your emotions, which is much more sinister.
One twist that I didn’t expect in The Integral was that video games would play a fairly vital part of the narrative. As a fan of playing video games; the way that it was implemented into the narrative fits rather well, and brings up discussions that are happening now about how video games can effect behaviour. This story is a real, no-holds-barred psychology-lesson romp.
Towards the end of the first episode; we get yet another look into Jamie’s character and his emotions, a seemingly running theme throughout this box set. It shouldn’t really be called The Second Doctor now that I come to think about it; he’s not really the main character of any of the previous three stories, it’s seemingly all about Jamie McCrimmon.
Opening the second episode, we have a base under siege story. Very Second Doctor. The great thing about audio is that, instead of being limited to the siege consisting of only a few people, due to the amount of actors that you can afford, instead you can have a siege that consists of hundreds, if not thousands of people; giving a real sense of danger.
If the idea of a base under siege story featuring the Second Doctor wasn’t good enough; we also get a murder mystery thrown in.
Jamie and the Integral having a conversation is a really interesting scene to listen to; the idea that someone who is rather closed minded about a certain demographic (in this case, aliens) and a member of that demographic being forced to work together and talk is a great idea, and leads to a really interesting conversation that is seemingly mirroring what’s going on in the world today.
Whilst listening to this story, I realised something; the Integral are the total antithesis of the Daleks. The Daleks want to remove every emotion except hate, to create the ultimate warrior; the Integral on the other hand, want to just remove anger, and leave people with a set of purely positive emotions. Boy, I hope Big Finish have plans to have these two battle it out; it would be a great conversation between Davros and an Integral.
Another episode that The Integral reminds me of is The Doctor’s Daughter, as it seems that there are two rival factions forced together in a close space. Of course, like in The Doctor’s Daughter, not everything and everyone is as it/they seem(s).
The final ten minutes of The Integral is more or less tying up all the loose ends, especially the answer to the murder mystery, which is rather satisfactory. My only problem with the story spending so long making sure everything is tied up nicely, it felt slightly too Scooby-Doo for my liking; finding the culprit, then explaining their motive and how they managed to seemingly get away with the crime.
Overall, The Integral is a great story about emotions, what it means to be human, and prejudice. It feels refreshing in this box set and I hope that the Integral are reused again (especially against Davros!)
Should you want to purchase The Second Doctor Volume One, it’s currently available as a four disc box set for £20.00 or as a download from Big Finish for £15.00 which you can purchase here.