Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Dark Flame

This story features the 7th Doctor, Ace, and Bernice Summerfield. This was my second go round with this story, and my memory of this was not good. Much like with "Nekromanteia" before it, I had a slightly different reaction this time.

The first time I listened to this, I really found Bernice's constant snarky remarks to the villains to be excruciating. I thought it undermined both the villains, and the story. It also made me violently hate Bernice Summerfield, who I had only previously experienced in "The Shadow of the Scourge" where I had found her much more palatable. (I never read many New Adventures novels, as I never liked the 7th Doctor or Ace enough to bother after trying out a few of the early ones and not really feeling any desire to continue.)

Thankfully, I enjoyed the story a bit more this time through. Benny does grate on my nerves a bit, but not enough to derail the story. I suppose it could be argued that her flippancy works somewhat since it makes her more effective as a villain when she is taken over near the end. But, I'm jumping ahead a bit.

This story is an outer space romp, featuring another relic (perhaps this should have been placed a few slots away from "Nekromanteia"), and one of many God-like villains which seem to be littered throughout the Doctor Who universe. The Dark Flame is some all powerful so and so from the end of time that could break through and destroy the universe. Of course, there is some mad cult that worships this and is working to help it, for reasons that can only be known to the most devout wackos. Here we have devious villains, undead skeleton warriors, a friendly robot origin story (for fans of the Benny range), and of course Ace being her usual loud, abrasive self.

Still, it ends up being pretty fun overall. The peformance of Andrew Westfield in the dual roles of Remnex and the evil Emissary Vilus Krull is quite good. He does a good job of sounding quite different between the two characters, and Krull has the suitable amount of menace and cool confidence. McCoy does alright here. He's a little over-the-top at times, and annoyingly rolls his r's in some inappropriate times, but generally keeps his overacting to a minimum. Some of the twists in the plot work better than others, but the one setting up the cliff hanger for Benny's take over is well done. The ending is incomprehensible gobbledegook, but isn't any more guilty than say... the defeat of another all powerful god at the end of "Pyramids of Mars".

So, all in all, nothing spectacular, but a perfectly fine outer space, end of the universe romp. At least, this time through I wasn't outraged that Benny survived, and could see myself tolerating her in future stories (though I could use a break for now). A more permanent break from Ace would always be welcome. I still generally prefer the 7th Doctor with Mel, or (better yet) on his own. This is certainly better than "The Rapture" which will probably require a herculean effort to get through a 3rd time... far, far in the future.

Rating: Good

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