Big Finish: Doctor Who: Once and Future: The Artist at the End of Time, Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Big Finish: Doctor Who: Once and Future: The Artist at the End of Time, Review

The audio drama landscape of Doctor Who's expansive universe was further enriched by Big Finish's second installment in their series commemorating the show’s 60th anniversary, entitled "Once and Future: The Artist at the End of Time." This narrative finds the Doctor in his fifth regeneration, encountering both Jenny, his daughter, and another enigmatic character from his past.

"Doctor Who Once and Future 2 - The Artist at the End of Time" provides a revised visual feast on its cover, setting the stage for a story that moves away from the high-octane adventures of space dinosaurs and UNIT entanglements from its predecessor. This chapter opts for a more contemplative and cerebral experience.

The Doctor's journey continues as he steps into the distant reaches of the future to explore The Final Gallery. This gallery is a peculiar place, housing the last surviving artworks from planets that no longer exist. Within these hallowed halls, the Doctor isn't just confronted with lost cultural treasures, but also with his "daughter" Jenny. As they delve into the mysteries of the gallery, they discover an intriguing connection between the exhibited artworks: they all originate from a singular artist. This artist is revealed to be the Curator, portrayed by Colin Baker in this audio form.

The story that unfolds is a nuanced mystery, focused on character development. The Doctor, grappling with his physical regressions, is mirrored by Jenny's emotional quest for paternal affirmation. Meanwhile, the Curator has found himself in a creative and existential slump, paralleling the Doctor's physical plight.

James Goss, the writer, weaves a tale that not only presents a metaphysical twist on the idea that an artist's value skyrockets post-mortem but also incorporates a range of clever allusions. Among these is a nod to the classic anniversary special 'The Five Doctors', with the inclusion of The Eye of Orion—a location often mentioned and once visited in that very special.

Much like the previous chapter, "The Artist at the End of Time" is not a narrative burdened with a complex plot. The antagonists eventually meet their fate, yet the intricacies of their schemes are left to the imagination. There's also a certain ambiguity surrounding the degeneration process affecting the Doctor, with pieces of the puzzle still missing. While it was apparent that he had reverted to his fourth form initially, the exact incarnation that suffered the attack remains elusive.

The story does not shy away from the complexities of Who continuity, inviting listeners to ponder the place of this afflicted Doctor within the larger timeline. If this is indeed a later version of the Doctor, his recognition of the Curator as an older version of his sixth self would be expected, especially given the Eleventh Doctor’s previous encounter with the Curator as an elderly Fourth Doctor. The lineage and logistics of these regenerations thus remain a tantalizing mystery.

Peter Davison and Georgia Tennant's dynamic as father and daughter is undeniably compelling, although Big Finish has explored this pairing before, notably in 2019’s "The Legacy of Time." Yet, it's the poignant exchanges between the Curator and Jenny that stand out, with Colin Baker delivering a remarkable performance that strips away the Sixth Doctor's characteristic bluster in favor of a more somber and introspective portrayal.

The drama is also enhanced by the supporting characters. Abi Harris captures the imagination as the gallery's AI, bringing an edge of sophistication mixed with a voice that echoes the distortions of autotune. John Telfer's versatility shines through as well, taking on multiple roles and impressing with each transformation.

In summary, "Once and Future: The Artist at the End of Time" is a Big Finish production that is both a tribute to the long history of Doctor Who and a testament to the depth and versatility that audio dramas offer to the expansion of its universe. As the second entry in the series marking the 60th anniversary of the franchise, this episode takes a divergent path from its predecessor, opting for an introspective journey rather than bombastic adventure.

Ultimately, "The Artist at the End of Time" stands out for its poignant character moments and contemplative themes, providing a slower-paced yet deeply engaging chapter in the Doctor Who saga, combining the nostalgia of revisiting well-loved characters with the freshness of new interpretations and scenarios, resulting in a piece that is sure to captivate fans both old and new.

As Big Finish continues to celebrate Doctor Who's legacy through these anniversary stories, they reaffirm the series' enduring appeal and its ability to evolve and resonate across different media and through the decades.

Doctor Who: Once and Future: The Artist at the End of Time is available to purchase from the Big Finish website.

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