Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Project: Lazarus

It would seem natural that in the 40th anniversary year for Doctor Who, that Big Finish might plan a multi-Doctor story to celebrate, right? So, I can only imagine the excitement of the fans when word of this sequel to "Project: Twilight" was announced with both Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy starring in it. I know that a year or so later I was quite excited to hear this story featuring two Doctors. Well, this isn't really that. It's really two different stories: one with the Sixth Doctor, and one with the Seventh Doctor. Although, the Seventh Doctor story does feature Colin Baker. Confused? I don't blame you. This story is definitely not the multi-Doctor story it purports itself to be. It seems odd to pull this sort of bait and switch in an anniversary year. Surely Big Finish wouldn't do this again in the same year would they? Would they?! Possibly misleading advertising aside, this is a fun story. It's certainly not as good as "Project: Twilight", but it's still pretty entertaining - particularly its first half.

The first disc features the Sixth Doctor and Evelyn with the Doctor finally announcing he may have had a breakthrough finding a cure for poor Cassie who was turned into a vampire in "Project: Twilight". Mysteriously, the TARDIS brings them to Cassie years after they left her instead of immediately afterwards as the Doctor was trying to do. After meeting with Cassie, they get swept up into the evil machinations of The Forge and reunite with the enigmatic Nimrod. Except from now on, Nimrod is a lot less enigmatic and more overtly villainous. This is one of my disappointments with the continuing stories involving The Forge. Nimrod was more of a dark anti-hero in his first story. While he does make a good sinister villain, I can't help but feel like it's a bit of a wasted opportunity not to leave him as a "tweener". One impressive aspect of The Forge is that it really feels like writers Scott and Wright came up with the idea for (an albeit more evil) Torchwood before Russel T. Davies did. Or, perhaps Torchwood is an homage? The highlight of this first half is its ending. Things go very badly for the Doctor and Evelyn, and their reactions are incredible. The Doctor is just about murderously, livid at Nimrod, and Colin Baker is just terrifying. Evelyn, is simply devastated, and it leads to one of my favorite scenes between the two. (More of poor Evelyn being put through the ringer!) When the Doctor tries to comfort a grieving and furious Evelyn it's heartbreaking. I absolutely love his sad line, "I don't always win," and Colin is just so magnificent here. I know I say it over and over again, but it's another example of the range the Sixth Doctor that was never given the chance to reveal itself on the TV show.

The second half of the story isn't quite as good, but it's still pretty fun. The Seventh Doctor arrives at the Forge when detecting some odd disturbances in the vortex, and is stunned to encounter his previous regeneration working for Nimrod as a scientific adviser. Or is he? As is often the case, I enjoy Sylvester McCoy's Doctor much more without a companion.... particularly without one particular companion. In fact, the faux Sixth Doctor ends up being the companion for this story. It's a lot of fun when the Doctor quickly susses out what's going on in The Forge. It's a simply priceless moment when he asks the "Sixth Doctor" a simple question that he doesn't have the answer for, and when a stammering reply is all he gets, simply walks off - "I thought so!" Moments like these are when McCoy's Doctor truly shines. Things progress a bit into cliched territory with some of the sci-fi tropes of cloning stories. Still, the ending ends up fairly exciting with the destruction of The Forge and the Doctor's escape. Credit also to Colin Baker, who delivers another knock out performance in the second half of the story. Even if not in the true multi-Doctor way I was hoping for, both McCoy and Baker play off each other wonderfully.

So, all in all, while not living up to its predecessor, or its billing, "Project: Twilight" is still fun. The return of Nimrod is welcome, and The Forge is a pretty interesting, evil version of UNIT or Torchwood. The conclusion of the first half is riveting stuff, and while the second half doesn't quite live up to that, and reveals that this may not have been the story we were exited for, it's still a pretty good bit of fun. The strong run of Big Finish releases in 2003, continues. When will it be derailed?

Rating: Great

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