The Chronic Rift

Will Hadcroft

Novmeber, 2002

Listening to The Chronic Rift was, for me, a bit like watching The Caves of Androzani after only ever seeing Peter Davison in Planet of Fire. Now I have just one other EF story to my name, and thatís Jeffrey Coburnís penultimate adventure The Hidden Menace; and yet there is a sadness to the final scene that touches even the uninitiated.

But Iím getting ahead of myself here. The Chronic Rift is a six part story across two discs, with each episode realised in digestible 20 minute chunks; something the Big Finish chaps might want to consider, given some of their fatigued lengthier instalments.

The Doctor and 13th century innocent Christine are visiting New York Cityís botanical gardens, when a bizarre time wind blows up, bringing with it creatures from another age. Caught in the dimensional shift, Christine is torn from the Doctorís side and deposited on an alternate Earth, where she meets other casualties of the strange phenomenon. Meanwhile the Doctor confronts those responsible for the chronic rift, but nothing is as simple as it first appears, and the nature of their experiment threatens to engulf the whole of space/time. As in the aforementioned Androzani, the Doctor is bashed about, shot at, attacked by a ferocious creature, and forced to risk life itself Ė all of which culminates in the inevitable.

The tale comes from the pen of seasoned EF scribe John S. Drew, and itís a credit to him. The concepts are thought provoking and the dialogue is thrifty. Itís a nice tight adventure, the cliffhangers leaving you gagging for more. (Indeed, I listened to the last three episodes in a single sitting.)

Acting is of a good standard, with Coburn taking all the plaudits for a fine performance and a touching regeneration scene. Rachel Sommers gives it her all as Christine, and the support cast does a fine job. The only character I have a problem with is Tel (Chip Jamison), who seems to be almost permanently pent up. He shouts quite a lot, even when his colleagues are restrained in their delivery. I did wonder after a while if he might be a descendent of Blackadder The Thirdís Duke of Wellington: ďThereís only one way to win a campaign: shout, shout and shout again! Itís all down to shouting!Ē Credit where itís due, though: Tel does seem to calm down once heís off the space station.

The Chronic Rift is a first for Everlasting Films, in that before this play was made, the actors used to read their lines while the sound effects and music were fed in live (one can only imagine how difficult it must have been to synchronise everything). In this adventure, however, the team experimented with the conventional method. The actors were booked to record their scenes, and then the effects were added in post-production. The result is a mixed blessing, with performances generally better concentrated than in times past, but in one or two instances dialogue is utterly drowned out by the incidental music. No doubt future releases will benefit from the teamís increased understanding of the equipment and mixing techniques.

The one major drawback, and itís quite a distraction, is the use of stock incidental music. As with The Hidden Menace, I kept thinking of the TV Movie and various other televised adventures cued by the use of their respective background scores. So my one piece of advice to EF is: GET YOURSELVES AN ORIGINAL COMPOSER! (Itís all down to shouting). In relation to this: if Fine Lineís principal weakness is their being too sparse with musical accompaniment, EFís trouble is the opposite: they have far too much. I donít know whether itís because they are influenced by American TV shows like Star Trek and The X-Files, but thereís music in virtually every scene and it is very bothersome, and not always necessary.

Ranting aside, I really did enjoy this. And since British distributor Robert Dunlop has managed to get the price down, Iíll be getting Jeffrey Coburnís earlier escapades. Iím quite interested in Christineís debut story The Seventh Dungeon of Drakmoore. But for now, Iím dying to find out what Coburnís successor is like, so roll on The Perfection SocietyÖ

Originally published in Celestial Toyroom, issue 299, October 2002.  Reprinted with permission from the author.

Last updated: Thursday, November 7, 2002