Summary: Amy (now Abby) and Zara from the Key 2 Time are on their own in the Universe, super-powered entities created for a task already completed. Soon, they find themselves like fish out of water, unable to cope with day to day, and as those around them see them as tools to be used, things go awry.
BLOT: (20 Apr 2011 - 01:25:45 AM)
Graceless Boxset 1 Review [Big Finish Whoniverse Spin-Off]
In "The Key to Time", the Doctor (Fourth incarnation) is tasked by the White Guardian to piece the titular Key back together again. In the final moment, the Doctor unleashes the Key before the task is complete to stop the Black Guardian from claiming it. The Universe started, or maybe continued, to crumble because of it, and so the Fifth incarnation of the Doctor has to try again, just moments before his past actions would have resulted in the end of all Time. He was assisted by Amy, a being created by the pan-dimensional Grace and gifted with strange powers—mind-reading, thought suggestion, teleportation (temporal and spatial), and some degree of reality manipulation at least—but utterly bereft of experience and memory as she was created right before being sent off with the Doctor. Amy had an older "sister", Zara, who teamed up with less than noble sorts and so while Number Five is teaching Amy to be good and sweet, Zara learns to be opportunistic and selfish. Eventually, the Key is put together and in the aftermath, Amy and Zara are allowed to go off on their own.
I think this first boxset to Graceless is also first for Big Finish: a spin-off adventure set featuring characters created by Big Finish for a Big Finish production. In this case, the boxset is a three parter, in which each episode runs into the next despite three fairly different settings/moods. In the first, Amy takes on the name of Abby (to avoid confusion with the TV show, for one, but in story as a disguise) and goes into a space station casino to rescue Zara who seems to be stuck inside. Here she finds out that her sister is pregnant by a likeable but morally bankrupt rogue named Marek. She also finds out that the Sphere (as the casino is called) not only has a corrupting influence but blocks their full powers from being used. After being caught at cheating, Abby is beat massively and given a series of coercions played off as choices. When she finally reaches her breaking point, she makes a choice that alters her forever [and is part of the reason she takes on the name of Abby permanently, even past the disguise].
The second episode involves Abby and Zara in a early twentieth century village called Compton, where a strange fog seems to be taking people away and they [the sisters] get blamed for it. When Abby escapes through time, but Zara can't, the townspeople are unable to execute a pregnant woman and make something like a peace with her. Abby returns with a newspaper from the near future (relative to them), which talks of some devastation coming to the town. The sisters have to unravel the mystery about them.
The third puts them back in space and this time they are tasked to bring a man's horribly burnt daughter back to life. Except they have learned that not only are they dying, but every use of their power hastens the process. Faced with this problem, and the ghosts of the dead they have left in their wake, they have to try and reconnect with who they are and decide if they want to keep going on, or whether it might be better to give in and do one last good act.
The whole thing is well acted. Abby (Ciara Janson) and Zara (Laura Doddignton) sound like bickering while somewhat morally confused sisters, Fraser James as Marek is both laid back and slimy but cool, while David Warner is a pleasure in "The Fog" (the middle story). Several of the other actors are also well played, and if some of the background parts kind of go wonky, it is not enough to detract.
The problems lie mostly within the scripts. Not only are several elements kind of weird—mentally laying out the events both described and implied in "The Fog" is a challenge to get logically, though it might be meant that way—but taking the sisters through the ordeals they go through starts to feel almost fetishistic. Not only do you have losses of virginity—figurative and literal—but you have really-powerful-women starting off in a state of de-powering and having to turn a little dirty to get free. Luckily, this is shored up after the first episode, even though every episode involves them being captured and bound and having their morals tested. That a baby is the core of their goodness just piles it on, as does having their powers somewhat lost and somewhat gained around a man. Rather than be distinctly different characters with different world views, they become largely interchangeable (minus the baby-bump): semi-sweet but semi-naughty.
The series has a lot of potential, but in perhaps seeking to give it a life of its own—girls' night out but not Bernice Summerfield—they may have weighed it down with a few too many "Very Special Episode" elements, all drenched in damsel-in-distress cues and bemoaning innocence lost. Slimy boyfriends, pregnancy, moral choices, and finding you have a fatal disease: all in three episodes? Slow down there, Blossom. Hopefully, in the future, Abby and Zara will be allowed to have more of a contrast, and they will focus on more elements "behind-the-Universe's-curtain". The crazy-odd happenings of "The Fog" is the best example of what could come out of this.
As is, the series only gets a Fair out of me, and kind of a low one. I am curious to see where it goes, but if the two super-powered women end up doing little more than fretting over men and babies and how big a bitch killing thousands of people makes you, again, I may not have a whole lot of patiences for the continued spin-off.
OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: April 2011