Big Finish are trying something slightly different with this trilogy in the Doctor Who Main Range, with having two one hour long stories in each release, seemingly related by similar titles. This month, we’re joining the Seventh Doctor, Ace and Hex with the stories Shadow Planet and World Apart; today, I’ll be reviewing the latter of the two tales, World Apart, written by Scott Handcock.
If you’re reading this, it’s too late.
There’s no way off this planet.
You will never escape Nirvana.
Something’s materialised in the vortex. Something huge. Something that shouldn’t be there. Something that is so huge, that it’s gravitational pull is drawing the TARDIS closer and closer to it. Something that could destroy the TARDIS. Luckily, the TARDIS has procedures in place to stop it’s destruction from occurring. Thank goodness.
The only problem with an emergency landing is that you don’t know exactly where you’re landing. Of course, if the Doctor doesn’t know where he’s landed, there’s only one thing he can do: explore.
Scott Handcock’s dialogue for Hex is absolutely beautifully poetic, especially when he’s talking about insignificant he feels after travelling with the Doctor. I know some people might want writers who write characters in the same way that us “normal people” talk; but in Doctor Who, a show when literally anything can happen, why wouldn’t you want a character who can move you with the power of words?
It’s not until around halfway through the first episode that we get a sense of what World Apart is really about, with a great scene that is brimming with a chilling atmosphere. And that’s not just because of the pink snow. Something is really wrong, wherever it is that the Doctor, Ace and Hex are. It’s not too long before the Doctor learns the truth, and to hear him so scared and concerned means it’s serious. Deadly serious.
The Doctor and Ace are running back to the TARDIS, and Hex is nowhere to be seen. The sheer terror in Sylvester McCoy’s voice in this scene chilled me to the bone. This is how you create drama and high stakes in a show where you already know the outcome. This is one of the greatest cliffhangers from Big Finish in recent memory.
There’s something about absolute silence in an audio production that is so unnerving. It’s not something you normally hear. Even when you think you’re in absolute silence, you normally hear a gentle hum of electricity or the sound of your own breath; when you’re listening to an audio drama, your ears focus just on that, so when there’s absolute silence in it, it’s so disconcerting. World Apart is the perfect story to have moments of total silence though, and it works brilliantly.
The second episode of World Apart seems to focus more on Hex and Ace, which is great because I thought that Hex was severely underused in the previous episode. If you’re getting Philip Oliver back to reprise his role, you’ve got to put him to good use, y’know?
Ace and Hex learn that they might not be as lonely on Nirvana as they first thought, and it adds a whole new layer to the creepiness of this tale. There’s nothing as off-putting as having a stalker (I imagine), especially when you thought there were only two of you around.
There’s a premise in World Apart that reminded me of one of the premises in World Enough and Time (the TV story, not the one from Big Finish), and it shows you just how flexible time actually is.
The finale of World Apart is a great action piece, and the sound design is absolutely brilliant, throwing you into the centre of the action. Ace and Hex are in great danger, and the Doctor is nowhere to be seen; but he is to be heard. The way that the our two companions get out of the predicament is slightly anticlimactic, but it does get a scientific sounding ending.
The very last moments of World Apart, I did not expect whatsoever, but it serves it’s purpose, and it’s bloody effective. It’s not the fairytale ending you might expect from a story like this, but it’s not as bad as it could have been. It reminded me a lot of being a teenager though.
Overall, World Apart is a very atmospheric story, which lets the Doctor take somewhat of a back seat, allowing Ace and Hex their time to shine. It’s much more of a character piece than the previous story, especially focussing on the dynamic between Ace and Hex. I’m not sure exactly where in the timeline this story takes place, but it’s great to hear Ace and Hex’s rapport at this stage. I just hope we get more Hex in the future.
Should you want to purchase Shadow Planet/ World Apart, it’s currently available from Big Finish for £14.99 on CD or a £12.99 download which you can purchase here.