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159g 'Dreamtime'

CD audio adventure released March 2005, 4 episodes

Writer: Simon Forward
Director: Gary Russell

Roots: Australian Aboriginal mythology ('Inapatua, for shapeless primordial people, Malatji for 'law dogs', Galeru, Yowie and Bunyip are genuine appropriated terms), particularly that of the Dreamtime and Dreaming. Hex refers (obliquely) to the death of Azaria Chamberlain, Star Trek and quotes from Joni Mitchell's Big Yellow Taxi. Ace mentions Sir David Attenborough, while the Doctor recalls Paradise Lost. The Wizard of Oz, The Doctor adapts Renee Descarte's "I think, therefore I am" twice

Intertextuality: Steffan Rhodri is playing the same Galyari Commander as in Forward's Bernice Summerfield play, The Bone Of Contention

Goofs: Shouldn't bunyips be water-based? [Perhaps the street one appears in is a dried-up river bed]

Dialogue Disasters: Pretty much anything written for Leanne Toomey and further bludgeoned by Josephine Mackerras, such as: "They're all dead, can't you see that - they're all dead!", and "This place is dead. Dead!"

Not dialogue in itself but the term 'Dream Commandos' - whoever thought that sounded like a good name?

Dialogue Triumphs: "Breath-taking's not my favourite word when there's only a force field between us and deep space."

Double Entendres: "You don't want to go down a third time"

Continuity: The asteroid where Uluru City (as it is named) is located is roughly thirty kilometers in diameter and features sections of desert, a town of around ten thousand inhabitants, and of course the rock Uluru. Following a solar calamity the population of Earth has been evacuated in Phoenix-class life ships, but Uluru City appears to be an exception, having been transported en masse from the desert around it, forming an asteroid with its own environmental barrier providing light, heat and oxygen for all life within it. Further to its physical construction, Uluru is said to be an embodiment of the land and people around it, with myth and legend woven through its fabric "like a third strand of DNA'. A supernatural force, the Dreaming, is responsible for all life around Uluru (and by extension the other., displaced area which was once throughout the land Uluru once inhabited). Its power rooted in ancient belief and waxing and waning with the belief of its people, the Dreaming binds the people and creatures to the land and as an embodiment of this spirit was intended to 'terraform' the eventual future home of Uluru according to the image of itself in the people's minds. Instead, the Dreaming has been weakened by the influence of Western society and is fighting back, summoning Dreamtime creatures to attack intruders and reducing life and human artefacts within the desert and City to 'Inapatua', primordial forms made from the desert sandstone.

Dream Commandos are specially-trained forces 'armed' with bull-roarers, sonic devices (ceremonial sticks) which can disrupt the Dreaming momentarily and weaken its agents (the Commandoes claim that the sonic element is only part of the effect, and that the spirit of the warrior must speak through the totem for real power). The City itself is held together by the will of Baiame, a man thousands of years old who dwells in the heart of Uluru and also in the Dreaming. Through Baiame the living creatures of the Rock have a connection to the Dreaming, and without his presence (as is threatened here), this link would be utterly broken. It is suggested that the Dreaming is, for want of a better term, conscious, and may be supplicated by chanting and belief to return to its own dormant state.

The Galyari here (see: Links) are eight feet tall with chameleon armour (it changes colour) and sonic tools and weaponry, although they are representatives of a trading group. The Dream Commandoes refer to them as Galaru, after the Rainbow Serpent of the Dreamtime. Galyari are distrustful and sceptical (to the point of being agitated) over psionics. They are the first real aliens Hex meets.

Hex is inexperienced with guns; his dad once took him shooting on a rare attempt at father-son bonding. The young Hex didn't enjoy it, but put up a brave front.

Future History: Electric cars are still in use.

Links: The Galyari and their race memory of 'the Sandman' mentioned in this story appeared in The Sandman. Hex describes his meeting the Doctor and seeing inside the TARDIS (The Harvest).

The Bottom Line: "Mythological terraforming!"

How you feel about Dreamtime and whether it works for you may ultimately depend on how you feel about the appropriation of a living culture and mythology into popular sci-fi. The humans of the colony may mythologise what they don't understand, but to turn the nuance of belief structures and complicated spiritual concepts into cod spaceship and future technology fodder is little better (although in Forward's defence this equation is left to the intolerant Galyari and left unexplained by everyone else). Sadly there's a decent story in Dreamtime, and even some of the ideas aren't too bad. It's just a shame that the sound design swamps them (jungle-flutes and bongos don't add Outback authenticity, by the way) and some very flat performances ruin what's left of the un-naturalistic dialogue.

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