Caedroia by Lloyd Rose

Believe it or not, the point of digging out old Big Finish adventures again is to re-assess them and, hopefully, re-appraise them. One always hopes that where a story fell flat the first time, it will later redeem itself. However, we have to also be honest. We have to look at what we have and ask how worthy it is. How far did "Caerdroia" advance a story arc in desperate, desperate need of advancing somewhere? How sound is the story and how satisfying are the pay-offs? And thirdly (and it's important you understand it comes third for a story placed where "Caerdroia" is) how entertaining is it?

At the time, "Caerdroia" was an utter disappointment in every way. It even came wrapped in a cover so bad that one retailer made their own replacement. On listening to the story again, willing to revise my option of it, I'm stuck instead by how transparent the whole thing is. Ridden with clichés, it passes itself off as a reasonable fantasy yarn and thus you could actually be forgiven for being entertained. But on inspection, it doesn't actually GO anywhere. Every scene is mildly tolerable, but strung together they forge a ham-fisted whole. Characters split up and get back together again continually throughout, while barely telling us anything about an advancing plot, instead spending their time navigating Alice In Wonderland fantasy musings like a giant clock and a minotaur. A minotaur! Really? Do we really need another one of them in "Doctor Who"? In fact, all of the ideas are stolen from other sources, including a blatant rip-off of the Mr Popplewick waiting room scenes from "The Ultimate Foe" on TV.

To give you an idea of the primitive and utterly two dimensional plot, I'll take you through it episode by episode. Episode 1 is entirely set in the Interzone, the strange void between worlds that has divided by the stories in this season. Thus it doesn't contribute to anything like an identifying story at all. It does, however, give us an interesting encounter between the Doctor and K'roka, albeit one that doesn't exactly tell us much about the Divergence or the season-long arc that we really need to be getting a grip on by this stage.

Episode 2's inexplicable yet big surprise is that for some reason The Doctor has been split into three entities, for comic and narrative effect rather than, for example, to provide some menace. Charlie even ponders whether one of them will turn out to be an "evil twin", which might at least have given "Caerdroia" a proper villain to focus on, which it hasn't got aside from the now ridiculed and bumbling K'roka. Instead, the additional two 'versions' of the Doctor are simply mean and ineffective respectively, a subconscious deconstruction of his character that suggests he is comprised of deplorable facets. This seems designed only to split the episode's 'journey' up and give each companion his/her own 'Doctor'. Once they've split up and encountered a few more stock fairy story elements they... get back together again.

It's important to remember that however mildly diverting "Caerdroia" may be on a superficial basis (and even on that level the world of imaginary myths and monsters had already been done to death in "Zagreus") the story falls just before "The Next Life" in the huge Divergent story arc. We really should have got more than this for our money at this stage. The K'roka seems unwilling to let anything slip apart from a few vague details about the Interzone (and it's more confusing than informative, as different planets are mentioned... isn't it supposed to divvy up places on a single world, as per Marinus?) and one can't help but feel it's because there simply isn't anything there to reveal. With a cold chill, you realise that perhaps no-one had actually thought about how things were going to pan out yet.

Episode 4 tells us more from what it doesn't reveal than what it does. They find the TARDIS, which has unfathomably split the Doctor into three to give him more chance to tracking it down (!). And then they leave. That's it, folks. The cuckoo clock had no significance, nor did the minotaur or the ever changing landscape. This whole story is here to give them the TARDIS back, and no more.

I feel inexplicably bad for giving "Caerdroia" such a mauling. But the fact is, it told me nothing, went nowhere and barely piqued my interest, let alone touched me in any meaningful way. In Part 4, there is a scene that goes on for around seven or eight minutes and all that happens is that Charley and C'Rizz work out the locals can't see them. This is Episode Four! When things are supposed to get moving. Every stock fantasy cliché turns out to be an imaginary device to lead them to the point where they need to be at the stories end. When we should be getting down to the nitty gritty of sorting out who the Divergence are, what Rassillon's involvement is and what on Earth has been going on for the last year, instead the writer invents some nonsense about the Divergence wanting to know how the TARDIS works, which is never returned to again.

Sorry, but "Caerdroia" is rubbish.