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Graceless by Simon Guerrier

01/03/2011. Contributed by Sue Davies

Buy Graceless in the USA - or Buy Graceless in the UK

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pub: Big Finish. 3 CDs 180 minute story. Price: CD/Download: GBP 25.00 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-84435-511-2) cast: Ciara Janson, Laura Doddington, David Warner (Daniel), Patricia Brake, Fraser James, Michael Keating, Colin Spaull, Alex Mallinson and Roger Watkins.

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‘Graceless’ might be sub-titled ‘being human’. The two human constructs who are Amy and Zara fulfilled their function and saved the Universe with the Fifth Doctor’s help in ‘The Key To Time’. Their wish was to live on and the Grace which stands outside of time and space let them have their wish. Now the two ‘girls’ must make it work. They are let loose upon all of time and space and they, or the universe, may live to regret it.

This is a three part series that follows the twins, Amy and Zara, as they attempt to make a life and a living in the big, cold universe. ‘Graceless’ is a boxed set in four parts available as a CD set or as a download directly from Big Finish. You can download the first 15 minutes for free from their site.

1. The Sphere (It could be called The Making of Abby)

Amy (Ciara Johnson) beams herself in and catches up with her bad side Zara (Laura Doddington) and trapped in a gambling joint called the Sphere. Zara has been gambling to keep the wolf at bay and has moved in with the morally dubious Marek (Fraser James). Uncle Lindsay (Colin Spaull) takes Abby under his wing but doesn’t foresee the catastrophic results. The sphere isn’t just a location, it gets in your head, it makes you behave in a certain way…do things you wouldn’t dream of…

Amy changes her name to Abby, not least because it would get confusing for us listeners when the 11th Doctor has his own Amy-iable companion. It’s quickly woven into the story to make sure we know it as well.

Setting the scene for future adventures this first episode starts to blur the line between the Ying and Yang of the twins and terrible things happen in the Sphere which influence the next two stories.

Colin Spaull will be familiar from the cyberman TV episodes and Fraser James is best known for the part of Blamire in BBC’s recent ‘Robin Hood’.

2. The Fog…(or somewhere to get lost)

The girls arrive in the village of Compton on Earth in October, 1912. This seems like a friendly place. Nan (Patricia Brake) behind the bar in the lovely local pub offers them a welcoming drink and then has them arrested, accused of murder and witchcraft. Daniel (David Warner) arrests them but all he really wants is the truth about the vanished children. They disappeared into the fog that has enveloped the village, through which no one can leave.

The redoubtable Patricia Brake, veteran of the TV’s ‘The Glums’ and ‘Porridge’, and of course, David Warner is always good value whenever he pitches in. Here he gives a slightly creepy but sympathetic performance and it is his ability to move between being threatening and compassionate which is the key in this role.

3. The End…

In which the girls reach the end of the universe and possibly the end of the line. The pirate Kreekpolt, wants them to save his daughter and they are more than willing but their power is fading and they will need a boost, which means a return to their place of birth.

Once again the casting is an exercise in cult memories. Michael Keating (Vila from ‘Blake’s Seven’!) plays the desperate Kreekpolt.

All three stories tie neatly together and this results in an exhilarating series of adventures that establishes this new team of two, as ones to watch (OK to listen to then). This series takes two amoral girls (no, not in that sense) and places them in a dark, dangerous universe. It looks out how they grow and learn from their experiences.

So far so good and there are some more adventures to come. I don’t know if any will have a cross-over with the Doctor as in the previous ‘Companion Chronicle: Prisoner’s Dilemma’. You don’t need to have heard the previous adventures of Abby and Zara but I suspect you will be so taken with the twins that you’ll want to catch up with their creation and adventures. I’m impressed with the storytelling by Simon Guerrier who has written all three of these standalone episodes and also wrote ‘The Judgment Of Isskar’ (part 2 of ‘The Key To Time’) and ‘The Prisoner’s Dilemma’. It makes a change to have two strong female leads. There is a lack of good parts for female actors on all platforms so it is good to see them driving this narrative.

This is a bit of a gamble for Big Finish as it moves away from their established series but, as with Jago and Litefoot, they have used the same excellent production values and attention to detail that make it a worthwhile venture. There is inventiveness and breadth to the narratives and combined with the likeable characters this offers great scope for future stories.

Sue Davies

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