Doctor Who: Black Thursday / Power Game Review

DW Black Thursday Power Game

The first ever Big Finish story starring Kamelion is now in the books, meaning this second (and third, I guess) story in the run has a little less intrigue around it, and if anything highlights a potential flaw in writing for the character: originality. Both stories once again feature Kamelion being influenced by another powerful mind, the only real plot point he had on TV, and a plot point from the previous audio story… Still, are Black Thursday and Power Game still worth listening to? Well…

Synopsis (For Black Thursday):

1902: Deep beneath the Welsh village of Abertysswg, men have worked the black seam for generations. Until the day of the disaster. The day that a blue box from the future materialised inside the mine…. and things would never be the same again.

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

Cast of Characters:

The Doctor (Peter Davison) – The Doctor is happy that his new TARDIS crew have begun to settle in with each other, though he knows deep down he has more work to do before Kamelion can truly fit in…

Tegan (Janet Fielding) – Tegan is back to worrying about everything other than Kamelion now, just like in the past. Is that a good thing? I guess so…?

Turlough (Mark Strickson) – Turlough is continuing his travels with Tegan and The Doctor, now with the shape-changing robot Kamelion in tow. It hasn’t made too much difference… yet.

Kamelion (Jon Culshaw) – Kamelion is a robot able to change shape to blend in with whatever civilization he’s in, but also a robot with an artificial brain that is easily influenced by strong mental forces…

The Hughes Family (Lizzie Roper, Tim Treloar and Matthew Aubrey) – Eira, John and their son Gwyn are living somewhat peacefully in Abertysswg, with John and Gwyn working hard in the mines. All three know of the dangers, but does anyone ever think that it’ll actually happen until it does?

Judith Matson (Bettrys Jones) – Judith is the daughter of the wealthy mine owner who likes to help the miners out in a pinch, even if her father disapproves…

Una, Richard and Stuart (Natalie Winter, Richard Popple and Dougie McMeekin) – A trio of sci-fi fans who get together on weekends to watch their favourite shows, which right now includes “The Incredible Power Game”, a mysterious show that just magically appears in the middle of other programs…

Sadia (Alex Tregear) – A contestant on the “Incredible Power Game” who had success in her previous appearance, which is so exciting it doesn’t matter that she can’t remember how she got there in the first place…

Plus more!

The Good:

DW Black Thursday Power Game Cover

Very nice cover, even if it does look like Kamelion is shielding his crotch during the explosion…

This might be a new record set in terms of two stories packaged together that have COMPLETELY different tones!

Black Thursday sees The Doctor and co. arrive in a Welsh mining village just as a major accident occurs, an accident that kills many, including the husband and son of local lady Eira. When she hears the news she falls into despair, as you would, and those powerful negative emotions overwhelm Kamelion, who begins to take the form of her lost loved ones. Repeating Eira’s husband John’s phrase of “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”, Kamelion appears before Eira and says he’ll make things right, and goes after the mine owner’s daughter, Judith. He succeeds in getting to a high ledge and is ready to throw her off, but Turlough, Tegan and The Doctor soon arrive along with Eira, who reveals that she’s Judith’s mother and rich bastard Mr. Matson had paid her to keep the “embarrassment” a secret. Realising that killing another child of Eira wouldn’t be revenge, Kamelion regains himself. Oh and Mr. Matson gets punched in the face.

So, as you can imagine, a 1900s mining disaster and horrible family issues made for a bleak and dark story. The first half was pretty much all The Doctor, Tegan, Turlough and Kamelion helping the injured to the surface, with all the grizzly detail that entails. As a bit of an epilogue, The Doctor takes Kamelion to a memorial in honour of those who died on “Black Thursday”, and tries to teach him about death and how eventually you get over the grieving stage, but the robot says he thinks he’s a liability and shouldn’t be around everyone… He’s not wrong! Still, it was good mini-story, focusing on a rather horrible time period.

Power Game on the other hand is a far more funny adventure, where some sci-fi fans watch a mysterious game show that has been taking over TV stations in the local area and broadcasting itself. Three contestants have to overcome obstacles and get to the power crystals in their zone to “win”. It all seems harmless… Except that it’s real, people who fail actually die, and the contestants are plucked from the local area and brainwashed into having a good time by a malevolent energy force from another dimension.

As for The Doctor and co? Well, Kamelion has gone missing, and soon Tegan appears on the show itself, causing Turlough and The Doctor to investigate it. As you’ve probably figured out by now, Kamelion is being controlled by the malevolent entity from the other plane of existence, and is actually the Hostess that has been abducting people (okay, maybe that last part was harder to predict…) The Doctor and co. pop across to the other universe and save the day, etc. It’s a fun story, with some funny bare-bones characters (as is the norm for a two-parter) and good 80s TV references.

The Bad:

The main bad here is that in both stories Kamelion was only there to be once again controlled by a powerful mind. I can only assume this was intentional, and maybe at the end of the next story he decides to never leave the TARDIS, explaining why in the TV show he… well, never leaves the TARDIS. If that’s the case? Fine, I guess… Don’t know if you needed four stories of the same plot device to do that, you probably could have just got away with one at the end…

The Continuity:

Not much, continuity-wise, beyond a mention of The Doctor’s back placing this right after our previous story, “Devil in the Mist”, and the cliffhanger at the end tying this into the up-coming “Kamelion Empire” story. This trilogy (or quadrilogy, I guess… well, Tetralogy technically, but let’s not get into that) is more strongly linked than most…

Game shows that turn out to have deadly consequences for the contestants isn’t a new concept, for the record. Sixth Doctor TV story “Vengeance on Varos” explored the idea of entertaining the masses by killing rebels in mazes and the like, and the Ninth Doctor two-parter “Bad Wolf / The Parting of the Ways” has people being randomly selected to take part in game shows with the losers being killed as well.

Overall Thoughts:

Black Thursday and Power Game are two completely different stories, one dark and serious, the other light and funny, but both share the fact that they’re really entertaining. A common plot thread puts a bit of a damper on things, but not too much. It’s still two enjoyable mini-stories in one release.

4 Star Listen

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