|Something Inside by Trevor Baxendale|
Filling a void in so many areas where there is something lacking in other releases, "Something Inside" is rich in atmosphere and tension. The setting is cleverly defined by not giving it any kind of context - The Cube is a prison, but that's all we know. Some releases go to great lengths to establish a wider environment ("Arrangements for War" is a good example) but here the opposite trick is pulled - it's like the action is completely confined within a box. Outside of that... who knows? Is it on a planet somewhere? The Cube could be on a spaceship, or under water even. This shrouds things in mystery along with a desperate, claustrophobic air and a further sense of something horrific and dirty. The background of the Psikes and the experiments done on their brains is intriguing and nasty - as are Rorden and Twyst, genuinely unsettling in their insane desire to be reckless with the brain-altering technology. The scene where Rorden demands more power simply because the Doctor hasn't died yet is shockingly disturbing.
I don't wish to be nasty, but how on Earth did a Trevor Baxendale and Nick Briggs collaboration turn out this stunningly good? The dialogue is marvellous, witty and clever, as if every line has been carefully considered. Baxendale's bog-standard previous efforts now seem light years away as this highly original story twists and turns towards it's conclusion - at it's heart a taught psychological drama (and it helps that the small cast perform it expertly) with shades of "The Natural History of Fear" to its brutal oppression, and there's even a frightening monster, the Brainworm, whose genesis is as ingenious as it is scary.
But a decent script and some wonderful acting aren't the only things this play boasts that have been spread thinly over the previous couple of years' releases - there's also the feeling it manages to evoke of second-guessing the plot, and realising what's about to happen just long enough before it does to give a sense of achievement, but not too far before as to make it appear predictable. Not forgetting desperately wanting to listen to the next episode after each one concludes. That hasn't happened for a while.
The lead characters are skilfully handled - India Fisher does genuinely remind you of why Charlie is such a good companion, and the Doctor is explored deeply without one sensing the writer is desperate to re-invent the wheel. The "secrets" he holds in his mind and the revelation that he prides his companions over the TARDIS when he has amnesia are intriguing. This is all wasted on audio; it needs to be a grimy, dimly lit TV thriller. If there's one complaint it's a feeble one - that the Brainworm attacks aren't executed with a lot of effort. Perhaps more could have been done to emphasis the trademark sound it makes when near... but this isn't a story about conventional monsters. It's about human brutality, and what happens to war heroes when they become a danger, rather than a source of national pride. The Cube is what happens to them, and it couldn't be more nasty.
So dash it, a Big Finish column with nothing whatsoever bad to say. Who'd have thought it? Well, actually the music does let the play down - inappropriate electronic bleeps almost wreck the mood, and Episode 4 is longer than it needs to be. But the fact is that "Something Inside" is hugely, thrillingly entertaining and is written, performed and directed with such care that it's going to be a joy to re-listen to over and over again. Why can't they all be like this?