A brand new Doctor Who audio drama from Big Finish Productions – starring Colin Baker as the Sixth Doctor – DOCTOR WHO: ABSOLUTE POWER is a puzzle box in story form. Set on the alien world of Teymah, it’s a slippery critter, where nothing is what it seems to be, and very few people are what they claim they are.
Teymah is a world whose original inhabitants, the Teymahrians, died out in what is known as an Anomalous Extinction Level Event. Something killed them all, but nobody’s quite sure what it was. Cue a combination of “The Da Vinci Code” and “The Enigma Project”, with the Sixth Doctor and his newest companion, 1940s Wren Constance Clarke (Miranda Raison), involved in a mish-mash of archaeology and cryptography, cracking ancient codes and languages to solve a riddle of the ages – and just maybe find out what happened to the Teymahrians.
They’re variously helped and hindered along the way by one of the galaxy’s richest businessmen Lyam Yce (Paul Reynolds), his drippy girlfriend Florrie (Jenny Bede), and the fabulously-named Professor Aryan Wyke (Neil Edmond), who are all on Teymah for what seems to be some philanthropic archaeology, but which pretty quickly gets revealed to be something rather more mercenary than that.
There are deals, double-deals, betrayals, possessions, explosions, including one designed to blow Constance into atoms when she gets too close to the truth, and as the story progresses, we learn there’s much more going happening on Teymah than meets the eye – and there always has been…
Ultimately, the Doctor and Constance – working together while curiously separated by events – must not only work out what’s going on, but also find a way to stop the flow of events before they consume everybody on Teymah.
Among all the surface level action and the underlying fight for the secrets that Teymar is hiding in its history, there’s also a third level to Absolute Power’s storytelling: the magma level of its moving and shaking, with two alien races pitting their forces against each other, not so much for the sake of the ‘aabsolute power’ of the title, but for survival.
And as if that wasn’t enough to be dealing with, there’s even a rather charming touch of “Brief Encounter” thrown in, with Constance – who has a husband back home in wartime Britain – becoming very much Celia Johnson when Ammar, a young factotum of Yce’s, falls rather in love with her.
Absolute Power covers a lot of ground over its four episodes – explosions, possessions, deceits, double-crossings, and alien assassination squads – but Writer-Director Jamie Anderson keeps all the levels of his puzzle-box story in constant motion, providing a clear enough path through those levels to stop listeners ever succumbing to confusion.
In short, Absolute Power is a solid, involving, elegantly-constructed, realistically complicated adventure story that barely lets you breathe or get bored from start to finish.