Doctor Who
The Last

Starring: Paul McGann
Big Finish Productions
RRP 13.99
ISBN 1 84435 102 5
Available 15 October 2004

Trapped on a dying world, the Doctor and Charley come face-to-face with those responsible for the war to end all wars, while C'rizz tries to understand what has happened. Powerful forces are at work on Bortresoye that not even a nuclear holocaust can tame...

Following the religious parody that was last month's Faith Stealer, The Last offers up its own brand of social commentary, with this grim depiction of a world ravaged by an atomic bomb.

The matter of death - and how we deal with it - is at the heart of Gary Hopkins' script. In addition to the obvious horror and futility of mutually assured destruction (which is not quite as topical these days as it was back in the 1950s to the '80s), the narrative also touches on the tricky topic of euthanasia. The Doctor (Paul McGann) has to face death in a way that he's never faced it before. Allusions made during early scenes to former travelling companions who came to sticky ends are more than mere self-indulgent continuity references: they remind us that the Time Lord hasn't always won, nor has he always managed to save those closest to him. The events that befall the current team of travellers fail to convince the listener of their permanency, but Hopkins' effort is commendable.

There are some lighter moments amid all the doom and gloom, especially towards the beginning of the story, courtesy of the bickering Bortresoye politicians Voss (Ian Brooker) and Tralfinial (Robert Hines) and their staggeringly self-centred leader Excelsior (Carolyn Jones). But these early moments of levity only serve to emphasise the horrors that are yet to come. In particular, Excelsior's lofty detachment from the plight of her subjects and her obsession with her own appearance and well-being are set-ups for some unspeakable acts later on.

The Last certainly lives up to its name, in that it lasts and lasts... and lasts. At 140 minutes, this is a very long story, equivalent to six 25-minute episodes, and the narrative does seem to drag on a bit at times.

This is an atmospheric and unsettling tale, but it goes on for too long.

Richard McGinlay

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