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159l 'Nocturne'

CD audio adventure released February 2007, 4 episodes

Writer: Dan Abnett
Director: John Ainsworth

Roots: Korbin plays from Beethoven's Moonlight sonata. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (bad poetry as a form of torture). The Doctor in episode two invokes Monty Python's 'Decomposing Composers' song and later quotes from A Midsummer Night's Dream ("Untune that string, take but degree away, and hark! what discord follows"). It is possible that some names in the play are themselves plays on artistic concepts (e.g. 'Tanza'='stanza', 'Foucoo'=fugue, the 'familiars' after Gaudi's Sagrada Familia)

Dialogue Triumphs: The Doctor: "The truth is a funny thing. Whenever I speak it, people tend not to believe me."

Technobabble: Acoustic perfectors incorporate harmonic processors, which in turn are comprised of resonator banks. We also have pulse compressors and 'loop modulators' (hmm... 'loop' is another word for 'ring', isn't it?)

Continuity: The planet Nocturne, one of the Doctor's most-favourite places in the universe is located "smack in the middle" between the systems of Tau Ceti and Zeta Reticule, home of the Foucoo. Glasst City is a major population point with canals and great granite mausoleum-like buildings. It is a place of art and culture, the centre of what has been termed 'The Far Renaissance', and it is famed for its enclave of artists including painters, sculptors, poets, writers and composers - the greatest concentration of such a community since the Florentine Renaissance. 'Post-pigmentism' is one of the current artistic movements in the enclave. Nocturne is also a stopping of point for those resting or fallen in humanity's war with the Foucoo, a subterranean species of indeterminate appearance due to their reticence and their vicious territorialism. The war against the Foucoo is marked with futility and stalemates, having already lasted 70 years (casualty numbers are increasing by the week). Due to hostilities and the constant threat of subterfuge the city is under martial law and there is a curfew in force. There is an area nearby called the Veldt, other features include the Lazlo Collection (quite far from the city centre), the central canal and Tanza's Palace.

The war zone is eight months' travel away. The principal colony on the front is Zocus.

Foucoo burrows are human-sized and formed of arches and tunnels made from wax or bone. The sculptor Shumack's eight-year labour Man Triumphant Against the Rigours of Space features an approximation of a Foucoo imagined as a cross between a spider and a mole, much smaller than the [idealised?] human subject of the sculpture. Their arsenal includes time-delay micromunitions.

Familiars are humanoid robots in a female form with synthesised voices and positronic brains. Autonomy is not a natural state for them, but may be granted. The Doctor has never been comfortable with them, claiming "a robot is a robot whatever it looks like" - there's too much that can go wrong.

The Ulanti were a species which lived up to two million years before the present on a paradise world where they developed and perfected the scientific art of bio-harmonics. Using their own world as a musical instrument they created music that expressed sympathetically the natural biological rhythms of their own ecosystem. In excavating their works two hundred years ago the researchers of Nocturne, ignorant of the science and its application, allowed a version of this resonance - a 'living music' with an intelligence and aesthetic of its own, to be recreated on their world, with less harmonious results.

Hex once went on a school trip to Venice - he thought that everything was wet and smelled like rubbish.

Untelevised Adventures: Hex and Ace mention previous destinations of themselves and the Doctor under false pretences, including Breearos (apparently in order for him to return his library books but resulting in a fortnight's stay while he negotiated the ceasefire in the Orbit Wars), Tau Sartos (to use their reliable laundry service, but actually to prevent the spawning of a particularly mucous Zylax swarm) and Nydas 3.

The Doctor has made several visits to Nocturne before, presumably at least one in his current incarnation (and presumably with Mel - certainly not with Ace), and also with Tegan (which was a particularly lively visit). During a visit five years previously he was embroiled in a cover-up over an attempted Foucoo assassination attempt on the executives of the War Department. The Doctor had only visited to catch up with friends.

Future History: The Far Renaissance lasts for roughly thirty years and is characteristic of the type of flourishing of human creativity that will only occur a dozen or so times in the life of mankind.

Links: The Doctor's suspicion and reference to past ill experiences with robots may be a nod to The Robots of Death in particular.

Location: The planet Nocturne, 790 years in the future.

The Bottom Line: "What is that?" "It's not art!"

Some people don't go to art galleries because they find them stiflingly boring. Some people shun people of 'artistic' temperaments because they find them over the top and insufferably self-obsessed. So we come to an audio story that combines both. Goodie! Additionally, Big Finish covered audio monsters with more suspense in Whispers of Terror (although one with arbitrary taste is novel - imagine if it only went after kitsch and tat instead?) Lilian and Ragpole are particularly hammy characters, and the story itself is very slight. A lesser tune after Abnett's superior The Harvest.

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