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TDAs - The Sword of the Chevalier

I finally got a chance to listen to the second Tenth Doctor Adventure of the second series. I also received my collector's edition of the set. It went right on the shelf next to the collector's edition of the first series, still in its shrinkwrap. Yes, I know, it's got cool stuff in it that I should open and look at, but it's so pretty in mint condition!

Spoilerific review behind the cut.

Teal deer (that's what my husband is now calling 'tl;dr'): This story is very skippable.

The Doctor and Rose in the Regency, meeting the mysterious Chevalier d'Eon. What's not to love, right?

I'd seen the ranking of this story on the Time Scales, which rated it lower than "Infamy of the Zaross", but I thought, since they rated IotZ high and I thought it was pretty meh, maybe I just have different tastes than others and I will like "Sword of the Chevalier" better. I was wrong.

First, you've got the Chevalier. In case you're not familiar with the Chevalier (I only know about the real Chevalier because of a mention in one of Neil Gaiman's works), he was a French spy who people suspect was actually a woman. The Doctor gives his/her brief history: brought up as a man, worked in England as a spy for France, was exiled to England after he/she lost favor at the French court and lived there as a woman, claimed to be a man to return to France and was pardoned only on the condition that he/she live as a man there. So much potential there for this character to lead the Doctor and Rose into a web of intrigue and mystery.

Then there's the antagonist(s), a member of the Consortium of the Obsidian Asp that is three individuals in one body with three faces and voices. I do not remember if they named their race during the audio; they mostly identified themselves with the Consortium, which the Doctor described as a loose organization of thieves and other chaos makers. This particular member has one dead individual; the remaining two were named Joxer and Hempel, one male and one female, so I will refer to them as Joxer. Joxer is a slave trader and is on Earth to capture humans and sell them. They considered their race (whatever it was) to be superior to humans, and so they were entitled to enslave them. The dynamic between the two personalities reminded me of Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar from Neverwhere, though neither were simple like Mr. Vandemar.

Put these together and you should have a thrilling story. You have the spy and master swords(wo)man on one hand. On the other hand, you have a dual individual to explore, and if that doesn't pan out, that's two intelligences the Doctor has to defeat. But no, the writer didn't opt for any of that. At this point in his/her life, the Chevalier is exiled to England and rather downtrodden (since the English nobles don't like him/her either), resorting to putting on swordsmanship shows to make money. His/her role in the story is to be supercilious and insult the Doctor's abilities.

Joxer, meanwhile, is just a villain. They prey on the attendees of a masquerade party (a great deal, since this three-faced being can hide behind a mask) thrown by a noble they've bribed, secreting them away, and then decide that since humans would sell for more if the supply dried up, they should capture about fifty and destroy the planet by releasing poison bombs into the atmosphere. The individuals never argue with each other, or come up with new ideas to solve problems. In my opinion, the only reason the character was designed this way was so that it could say what it was thinking out loud.

This resulted in the following plot: The Doctor and Rose meet the Chevalier at a swordfighting demonstration. The Doctor detects the Consortium on Earth and goes to stop whatever they're doing, and the Chevalier tags along. They end up at the party. Rose is captured and spends some time trying to unlock the prison cells with the sonic, which she happens to have. Meanwhile, the Doctor and the Chevalier meet up with Joxer and there's grandstanding on both sides, then Joxer leaves to go arm the poison device after setting their zombies (this isn't random - this is explained but unimportant) on them. The Chevalier grabs two swords off the wall and they kill the zombies.

The heroes regroup and find Joxer about to turn on the device that will fire the poison bombs. Joxer mocks them some more, saying how inferior they all are and how they never cede to inferior species; they only defer to superior species. The Chevalier challenges them to prove their superiority through a swordfight, and beats them while the Doctor attempts to disable the device. Then he smashes the device with his sword. Joxer mocks him, that the inferior lifeform resorted to base violence. The Doctor tells them to scan him. They surrender to him, and he tells them to release the humans and buy back and release all of the other slaves they've ever sold.

In summary, the bad guys did some bad things, and the heroes won through a combination of swordfighting and having been born Gallifreyan.

There was really nothing redeeming about this plot. There were no unwinnable situations saved by clever thinking. There were no puzzles for the audience to figure out; the moment Joxer said that they would only defer to a superior race, you knew how the Doctor was going to win. There were snatches of clever dialogue but not much. The writer opted instead for lots of the Doctor being foolish and the other characters mocking the Doctor, rather than good banter.

Which brings me to the subject of Rose. I never thought I would ever say this, but Rose was really shortchanged in this story. She did absolutely nothing. It reminded me of "Terminus", which was Nyssa's last story and it was all about her, so the writers needed to get Tegan and Turlough out of the way - they get trapped in a ventilation duct for two whole episodes. Rose spends the first part of the story mocking the Doctor (which is out of character; she used to tease him, yes, but not to this extent), and then is dumped in prison for most of the episode. Once she figures out how to use the sonic, she does help the others get out of the cells, but that's her entire contribution to the episode. This story would have been better with no companion, so that either the Chevalier or Joxer got more development time. Well, maybe in the hands of a different writer, it would.

I think the writer was trying to parallel the Chevalier and Joxer - the individual who is both man and woman and the two entities who are one individual - but any message got lost in amidst Joxer repeating his opinions about superiority and inferiority, and certainly the Chevalier didn't learn anything from this adventure.

Performance-wise, DT was great, though again I'll say he was better in the first series. He's an amazing voice actor, and I imagine that he was jumping around that studio during the swordfighting scenes. BP still didn't sound a thing like Rose, though admittedly she wasn't given any real Rose material to work with. The Chevalier did a good job sounding androgynous, and the two voice actors for Joxer were great - they all would have shone if they'd been given meaty parts.

So, one more story in this series to go, and then back to praying for more series, preferably with Martha or Donna and especially with James Goss doing ALL THE WRITING!



( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 9th, 2017 10:22 am (UTC)
I must say, your reviews are not inspiring me to fire up the browser and buy these. I know I will, eventually, because, hey- it’s DT and I miss hearing Ten. Do you think Big Finish figured that 10/Rose had such a built-in audience that they didn’t have to try very hard?
Dec. 10th, 2017 02:05 am (UTC)
Well, I do realize now that this story made me appreciate the first one more...

I don't know. Maybe you'd like these audios. Blogtor Who gave the entire series a 10/10 rating, but then they tend to think anything DW is the best ever. I will note that you can buy the audios separately, so you don't need to get all of them. Unlike "The Ninth Doctor Chronicles", which are considered short stories so you have to buy them as a group. Too bad - "Retail Therapy" is fantastic and the first story was also very good.

I do think that Big Finish tries its hardest to make the best audios it can. I just think that they chose poorly with the writers this time.

Edited at 2017-12-10 02:05 am (UTC)
Dec. 11th, 2017 09:42 pm (UTC)
http://dwgroupwatch.tumblr.com/ is doing these audios if you wanted to have a listen before committing to a purchase. You missed Zaross which was last week, but on Wednesday they're doing this one.
Dec. 10th, 2017 02:19 am (UTC)
Wow. I think it could be said that Rose was short-changed throughout Doctor Who. She wasn't allowed a true chance to grow up, to learn to take on responsibilities and to treat others with respect. Mind, the Doctor did her no favors there. (Which reminds me that I need to get back to writing my alternate New Who series with a different blonde as the companion...)

I wonder if the Big Finish honchos are not so keen on the whole Doctor/Rose thing in the first place. And if the writers felt happy with any of their efforts. The worst Eight audios I've heard so far sound far better than what you've described here. :(

But I wonder if the biggest problem is that they realized that BP needed more time than they could give her to learn voice work and due to the commitments they made had to go ahead with it on schedule. The kinder thought is that BP has lost the ability to manage that accent, rather than to think that she didn't try. And yet it seems that the writing problem continues to plague the Doctor's companions!

Is there any way to find out how well this series is doing? Or will we have to wait until Gallifrey One?
Dec. 11th, 2017 12:01 am (UTC)
I hadn't thought about the fact that voice acting is a completely different beast from film acting, and I think you're right, BP doesn't have voice acting chops. It's not so much the accent that made her Rose efforts fall short, it was that she didn't sound young. In "Infamy of the Zaross", there were three female characters and they all sounded the same (I couldn't tell them apart), like the oldest, who was the mother of the other girl and Jackie's contemporary in age. Rose doesn't necessarily need to sound like a chav, but she should not sound like a forty-year old woman.

As far as I know, there isn't any way to find out how sales went. BF doesn't mention that at all, even at Gallifrey One. I'm sure it did well, simply because of the support for that Doctor/companion combo in the fanbase. "Sword of the Chevalier" definitely ranks down with the worst audios I've heard so far, as well as the worst TV episodes (though I admit it didn't enrage me with stupid like "In the Forest of the Night" and "Sleep No More" did). I expect "Infamy of the Zaross" is pretty average, even though I didn't particularly like it.
Dec. 11th, 2017 04:31 am (UTC)
Quite the contrast with Paul McGann, who can cold-read dialogue from other Doctors in his Doctor's voice and make it sound at least decent. Sometimes even awesome. If BP was hoping to get voice work from this, I doubt it'll happen. There needs to be the essence of the character there in the actor's voice no matter how much time has passed, and given what you've said it sounds like it wasn't there in any way, shape, or form.

But if she doesn't sound like Rose, then even some of her biggest fans will notice and be confused at best. I wonder how many of BF's regulars skipped because they weren't impressed with the previews.

Oh, and I recall seeing a photo of the DW Magazine issue about the audios. (The cover didn't have DT posing with BP like he did with CT, IIRC.) I took exception to the article describing Rose as "universally love" or something like that. No one is universally loved. Not even David Tennant. Part of me wonders if some of the people who want to support 10/Rose are painfully aware of the failings of this series and are trying to distract the fans...

"In the Forest of the Night"? "Sleep No More"? Which Doctor and companion were in those, respectively?
Dec. 11th, 2017 05:06 am (UTC)
I think it takes a certain kind of talent to be a good voice actor. You can't just deliver lines; you have to imbue them with emotion and nuance, and you cannot rely on your face to communicate that. It's just the opposite from TV/film, where you often have to over-act with your face because the limitations of the screen borders means you cannot move freely.

Paul McGann is a fantastic voice actor. So is Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy. I think the weakest voice actor Doctor is Peter Davison (despite being my second favorite Doctor). He plays his Doctor well, but his deliver is plain and he doesn't have much range.

I think the previews played directly to the Rose fans, though I'm actually not sure where all the "I'm Rose Tyler!" lines came from. There was one moment in the third story where she said, "I'm Rose Tyler, and we Tylers never give up!" or something like that, but it was said in a quiet tone to the two people hiding with her, not in the strident, defiant tone of the preview.

I have a copy of the DWM, but to be honest, I didn't read anything beyond DT's article. I find DWM to be fan-pandering crap, for the most part. For example, calling Rose "universally loved".

"In the Forest of the Night" and "Sleep No More" were Twelfth Doctor TV episodes with Clara. I don't think there are any non-Twelfth Doctor episodes, classic or modern, that angered me. Disappointed, yes; angered, no. It's really only Moffat's stuff that has enraged me with the stupid that he's tried to make me swallow.

Edited at 2017-12-11 05:06 am (UTC)
Dec. 12th, 2017 05:12 pm (UTC)
All very true. Pitching, volume, tone, force, and so much more all need to hit just the right marks. With no room for error. I hadn't thought about overacting with the face in TV/film as compared with stage.

Hmm. As I haven't listened to enough audios or episodes yet to make that kind of judgment, I'll take your word for it.

So they had her record a few extra things expressly for the previews? Yeah, something not necessary when you know bits from the actual episode will stand on their own.

Gee, I guess I won't buy any more copies. I got the one with DT and CT, but nothing else.

Clara. Did I mention that the only full episode I've seen her in was the Christmas special with Santa Claus and the face crabs? Was completely unimpressed with her, and the story-line.
Dec. 12th, 2017 08:43 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I read somewhere that for TV, since a lot of the shots are close-ups or torso and above, you have to keep yourself still and not use gestures. Thus, you have to over-act with facial expressions to convey emotion (but of course, not so much that you look fake). DT's elastic face is perfect for that; another fantastic expression actor is Nathan Fillion. And then there's stage, where it's all voice and body acting and very little face acting, since you cannot rely on the audience being able to make out your face from the nosebleed seats.

I had no idea you had mostly never seen Clara. I could rant for pages about her. Basically, she started as Eleven's Impossible Girl, and since the whole story line was about Eleven trying to figure out why she existed at all, Moffat didn't bother to give her a personality or history beyond "chipper". Her attitudes and skill sets changed depending on what the episode needed the companion to do. Then with Twelve, Moffat decided that her whole point was that she's as powerful and wise as the Doctor and that the tension between them is that each of them is trying to mold the other into the image they want. A lot of people enjoyed them, but to me, it was painful to watch.
Dec. 12th, 2017 10:51 pm (UTC)
Elastic. Yes, that's a great word. Hmm. But some overacting is obvious even on screen. "Chewing the scenery" has to come from somewhere.

That and a bit from the final Eleven episode, that one Christmas special. What I saw there? Left me even less impressed. Her whole arc is proof of why SOME continuity is critical even in a show that's sometimes all about re-telling or changing things, and where logic is difficult to come by. I don't blame you.
Dec. 13th, 2017 01:09 am (UTC)
Oh, it's not even a matter of continuity. Moffat decided that he wanted Clara to be responsible for everything the Doctor is and did. Through her tenure she

  • was responsible for every victory the Doctor ever accomplished ("The Time of the Doctor" - the one you saw),
  • appeared to the Doctor as a young boy and inspired him to travel the stars ("Listen"),
  • directed the Doctor to choose the TARDIS ("The Time of the Doctor", in direct contradiction to "The Doctor's Wife"), and
  • was the person prophecied by the Time Lords to be destined to destroy Gallifrey, which was why the Doctor originally left Gallifrey, to escape his role in the prophecy.

Basically, Moffat rewrote the entire history of the show so that she (and by extension, himself) is responsible for all of it. And, in "Heaven Sent" (which is honestly a fantastic episode despite what I'm going to say), which occurs after Clara left, we get to see his thought processes, and he was incapable of acting at all without talking to an internal vision of Clara, who told him what to do.

This is why I don't write fanfic for anything past Amy and Rory. I just ignore the destruction that Moffat wreaked on the show and pretend it never happened.

Edited at 2017-12-13 01:10 am (UTC)
Dec. 14th, 2017 01:12 am (UTC)
Wow. You're right about Rose's voice. For a sentence or two at the beginning there I didn't recognize BP at all and wondered who the Doctor was talking to. I still do think DT also sounds older and, as in the first series that I listened to bits of, don't find him 100% convincing, but wow about Billie. Someone needs to have coached her to raise the pitch of her voice, or something.

ETA: It got better as the thing wound on. I wonder if she warmed up, or something. But still. And I also agree that the ending was unsatisfying; I felt that even though I knew it was coming and what it would turn on, it still felt very abrupt that they suddenly turned around like that.

I don't think people really sounded like they were "mocking" the Doctor, though? Closest was the Chevalier's dialogue when they were fencing, I thought.

Edited at 2017-12-14 02:07 am (UTC)
Dec. 22nd, 2017 07:39 pm (UTC)
So I just relistened to the first audio of series 1, and DT sounds completely different. His voice has deepened over the years and there's not much he can do about it (same with Peter Davison - his audio Doctor doesn't sound like his TV Doctor, but there's a good 25-year gap between them), but there's a big difference between series 1 and series 2. It really felt like he didn't make as much of an effort to recapture his Doctor in this second series.

Maybe "mocking" wasn't the best term. I just felt like that a lot of the humor in the episode hinged on making fun of the Doctor's abilities. Of course the Chevalier would mock the Doctor during the swordfight - that's standard repartee - but Rose brought up the Doctor's lack of swordfighting ability at least twice, despite the fact that he actually didn't do badly against the best swordfighter in the world (and, if you think about it, he proved his abilities with the Sycorax). And then there was the whole thing about being mistaken for an opera singer. It just seemed odd to me.
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )

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