23 November 2011

Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Written By: John Dorney, from a story by Barbara Clegg

RRP: £14.99

Release Date: 31st October 2011

Reviewed by: Matthew Davis for Doctor Who Online

Review Posted: 23nd November 2011

After what was to my mind, was a mixed season of releases, the Lost Stories return, with the Fifth Doctor making an excellent debut in the range.

After the events of Arc of Infinity, Tegan is back in the TARDIS and the Doctor has mixed feelings about it. He decides to take both Tegan and Nyssa to the paradise world of Florana but they wind up under the dome of a battle scarred planet, run by the Elite. The Doctor is intrigued by this place, one in which the people are all young and the old are absent. While the military fights for the glory of the Elite, everyone lives in reverence or fear of the High Priest who lives hidden in the cathedral of power. The situation is about to dangerous for the High Priest knows the Doctor of old, and an old enemy will stir.

The Elite is very good indeed. A gripping and intriguing narrative, coupled with exciting all out action, particularly near the story’s conclusion.  Everything about this release feels like authentic Peter Davison era Who from the characterization, to the suitably Peter Howell-esque musical score.

Peter Davison himself delivers an excellent performance throughout, as do the rest of the main cast with Janet Fielding in particular on good form.

What gives The Elite its hook is the central mystery of the High Priest. I will not spoil it for you, but when his true nature is revealed, it is very satisfying.  Dorney does an excellent job of keeping us guessing right until the revelation, and it is a credit to the rest of the story that it does not get swamped by its magnitude.

In fact The Elite has so much more on offer than a mere plot twist. 

What impresses is the exploration of the abhorrent ideology of eugenics and the examination of the church versus the state. The ugly nature of the Elite is slowly revealed and what disturbs is how much it’s young citizens have such absolute conviction that the elimination of the weaker elements of society should be erased.  It is played with complete conviction by the cast and credit must be given to the actors involved, as it ensures their characters do not become mere soundboards for the Hitler Youth politics the Elite believes in.

The depiction of religion in the play is fascinating.  The acolytes of the High Priest, such as the character of Thane, played like a true zealot by Ryan Sampson, are completely devoted to the ideal of the High Priest as their one true God, even when his divinity comes into question.  Although the Thane character comes close to being worryingly two dimensional towards the end, he best represents the shadowy nature of the religious organization and its suspicion of the military powers. The mutual distrust between the military and the church, and their rightly held belief that one is trying to overthrow the other is explored well and offers some excellent dramatic tension throughout.

The Elite, is a thoughtful, exciting and rich play. The only downside is that some of the characters aren’t as well served by the script as others. Poor Sarah Sutton is relegated to the sidelines and spends most of the time under the spell of the military education, a plot line that is underdeveloped which is sad considering how much strong material is on display. However The Elite is a very strong debut for the Fifth Doctor in the Lost Story range. Highly recommended.

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