The Perfection Society
Brilliant all round! I'm sure Jym DeNatale will make a great Doctor after his performance in the story. He's already got a big fan!
Rachel Sommers continues her sweet talking role as Christine... although some of her lines are muffled or difficult to understand, IMO she's *perfectly* cast!
Tom Himinez is great as the villian, Leland: calm, stern and convincing, he makes the character truly menacing without being too OTT!
Regulars Sheri Devine, Chip Jamison and David Segal are great as usual, in all their many characters!!
All fits in well. Sometimes the music is louder than the speech, but there is not too much of this problem and I didn't find it too off putting (just had to strain more to hear what's being said!)
The DW telemovie bicycle chase music fit in very well for the episode 3-4 chase. I can't think of anything that could have been better.
The new McGann title music, although I like it very much on the film, I don't think quite fits - especially at the end of episodes. The impact of the cliffhangers are somewhat lightened by the score, which, I thought in episode 2's end in particular didn't give it the push it needed. (it comes in slowly at the end and doesn't grab your attention as much as the McCoy music did in the previous season.)
One word: fantastic!
Enjoyed it! Sets up the new Dotor's character very well. I really felt for Christine in many of the scenes, however she was a right menace at the beginning!
Episode 4, at around 25:00 - this is quite a horrific moment!! (poor fellow..) I'm glad this was done on audio!
Episode 1 had a very long introduction scene didn't it! (after the regen.) I'm not complaining as it set the scene very well - but it's a mite long... as is episode 4 which at 40minutes takes up 1/3 of the entire story!
The TARDIS crew don't leave the ship until the end of the thirty-minute episode one.. :( But we get some great action in the ship in the mean time!!!
Ties in well with the end of Chronic Rift with a surprising resurrection of -..... (you'll have to listen!)
Finally...you had on the *SCRIPT* for the Imperfects readout in episode 4 names including these: "Aron Eisen, Josh Pais, Hamon Camp, Chase Palan, Dane Ogan, Hans Moore, Ira Behr, Jean Luc Tel, Daren Goul, Walner Prin, Bain Nog, Thom Brin, Davis Trent, Mel Dean, Domine Krell, Leana... " How come I heard what sounded like "Segal" and "Jym DeNatale" in there??! (did I imagine it? (and don't say that I did!))
Overall... great stuff - two fantastic CDs packaged around a lovely cover. :-)
Regeneration stories are problematic by their very nature: How does one tell an absorbing yarn and at the same time introduce a new leading man? The essential characteristics of the Doctor are already there, yes, but idiosyncrasies and nuances of the fresh interpretation must be put under the spotlight (or so tradition has it). On top of this is the Doctor’s companion(s), who, if they aren’t already au fait with the concept of regeneration, have to come to terms with the sudden metamorphosis of their closest friend.
In the television series, there have been to date seven attempts at juggling the need to reinterpret the central character with the desire to present a compelling story; each varying substantially in their perceived success. Power of the Daleks, for example, was a minor miracle, because it could have spelled the end there and then if the audience had suffered an adverse reaction, while Spearhead From Space went for the ‘lets start again from scratch’ approach and got on with telling a good story. The Fourth/Fifth Doctor transition was realised by spreading the process across an arc of related themes. Then we had the abomination that is The Twin Dilemma. In his defence of the tale, Colin Baker has said that it’s perhaps not so bad an idea to avoid eclipsing a new Doctor with the greatest story ever told. Me thinks he is being polite here, since his own debut and that of Paul McGann prove beyond doubt that giving the regeneration equal focus to the plot robs the story of momentum.
What’s all this got to do with Everlasting Films’ semi-pro venture The Perfection Society, I hear you ask. Well, as you will recall, my last EF review, The Chronic Rift, was Jeffrey Coburn’s grand finale as the Doctor, he regenerating into Jym DeNatale at the story’s climax. So how does Perfection Society stand up?
The double CD opens with Keff McCulloch’s paper-and-comb realisation of the theme, this being the adopted rendition for the Coburn series. We get the theme in full, followed by the entire regeneration sequence which brought The Chronic Rift to its conclusion. We’re not talking quick recaps here, folks, but a full blown repeat of the whole scene. Once DeNatale has declared, “Christine... I am the Doctor!”, its off into John Debney’s orchestrated version of the signature tune, denoting that we have entered the new era. Again we get a full piece of music rather than a quick edit.
To my mind, this messing about with the Ron Grainer composition suggests a lot of fan-boy overindulgence. It’s clear that the production team are very excited to be entering their Doctor’s next epoch, but I don’t think it is necessary to underline it to the extent that they do. Why not just have an edited recap (perhaps in a similar manner to the Tom Baker reprise at the start of Castrovalva) and then go straight into the theme?
Of the story itself: The TARDIS lands on a planet where it is illegal to procreate the natural way. Such births are deemed imperfect and are hunted down by the cruel regime. It’s an interesting notion in itself, and holds one’s attention, despite the fact that it has been done to death in various media over recent years (the best example leaping to mind is the movie Gattacca). It suffers, though, at the expense of having to introduce the new Doctor. There are some good set pieces and the action is well treaded, but Christine is left carrying the EF baton while we adjust to DeNatale’s redefinition of the hero.
Unlike the preceding adventure, to which I was glued for the whole of the second half, with The Perfection Society I discovered I could last a good few days between episodes without ever wondering how the situation is going to be resolved. This brought disappointment, because I so enjoyed John S Drew’s previous script. He’s a good writer, and I think the lack of drive in his latest offering is largely down to the nature of the beast. Re-gen stories are rarely great classics.
As for the actors: everyone turns in their usual topnotch performances. Thankfully, Chip Jamison is given an authoritative role this time, making his loud and determined delivery more palatable, while Sheri Devine, Peter Hinchman, Thomas Himinez and David Segal are consistently good.
Rachel Sommers (Christine) follows in the footsteps of many a TV companion in having to pacify the audience as the series’ only recognisable character, a daunting task if ever there was one. Unfortunately she is hampered by her character’s reluctance to accept the new Time Lord. At the end of this 117 minute adventure, when the Doctor has risked his new life and limb to rescue her, she still isn’t sure!
Jym DeNatale shows great potential and I look forward to ‘seeing’ how he develops. As with the majority of the TV re-gen stories, I suspect we will only get to experience this new manifestation in his full glory when he arrives in the succeeding adventure. I’m looking forward to it with a genuine sense of anticipation.
Post production is of a high quality, although the Star Trek orchestrations still irritate, and the TARDIS door sounds more like someone rattling a shoe box than a simple wooden door clicking open and shut.
The cover art is nicely done. It’s good to have some visual representation of the main characters, with the sleeve boasting DeNatale’s serious glare while his former self lies dying in Christine’s arms down in the corner. Nice touch, that. The downside is that Everlasting Films have followed the trend of so many other unofficial producers and given the new Doctor some facial hair. WHY???
If I had to rate this adventure out of ten, I’d give it seven; but the online chart where listeners cast their votes ranks The Perfection Society in the top slot. It’s rated better than The Chronic Rift and Fine Line’s Second Chance. All I can say is it goes to show there’s no accounting for taste!
First published by Outpost Gallifrey, July 2003.
A few thoughts on The Perfection Society.
Warning: I'm verbose. I'm not a very good writer. I guess that makes me an ideal critic! ;>
Warning 2: A few minor spoilers are contained within this review.
The concept of a "dark side" to a so-called "perfect society" is not something new to literature, not even to Dr. Who. But writer John Drew wisely does not attempt to present the evil in the society as a surprise. Rather, he uses it as a backdrop upon which to bounce all sorts of ideas, ranging from what exactly it means for a society to be perfect, to the relationship between the individual and the state. I think what I liked most about John's story is that the conclusions to these questions were largely unwritten, leaving the listener to draw his conclusions from the events of the story themselves.
Debut stories for new Doctors have traditionally been disappointing. There've been a few stories with decent debuts followed by mediocre stories (An Unearthly Child, Twin Dilemma, Robot) but Perfection Society manages to combine an interesting regeneration with a great plotline to rival (and maybe surpass) Castrovalva as my favorite debut story.
I also have a lot of praise for the actors. Jym DeNatale's debut as the Doctor rocked, and I'm verily looking forward to his tenure. He had some tough shoes to fill, following Jeffrey Colburn, but he filled those shoes admirably to say the least. I'd like to dwell on DeNatale's performance more, but there's really not much more to say than he was great, and I think he'll only get better as he grows further into the role.
Now, I must admit that the character of Christine has taken some time to grow on me, but she really comes into her own here. The discussion of "perfection" is best considered in light of the character of Christine. Christine is not a "perfect" companion; she's a real person. The scene in which Leland "interviewed" Christine was a wonderful scene in so many ways, not the least of which was to showcase Christine at her best, one second defiant, the next intimidated and afraid. Christine has a particularly great line in that interview (the defiant part) and Rachel Sommers delivers it "perfectly". Rachel is Christine, and Christine is a perfect companion for DeNatale's Doctor.
The supporting cast (Chip, Sheri, Peter, and David) was wonderful, but I think one performance needs to be highlighted. Thomas Himinez as Leland was the "perfect" villain in this piece. A minor quibble I have with Everlasting Films regarding this story is the picture they chose of Leland for the CD cover, a dark man in a dark suit with a dark beard: in other words, an almost stereotypical villain. When I listened to this story, I pictured Himinez's Leland far differently: as a good-looking guy in a nicely cut suit, the next door neighbor who kept his lawn perfectly maintained, his car always clean, and his CD collection by genre in alphabetical order. He'd be the kind of guy upon whose word you could depend, who'd give a lot of time to charitable works, who'd have been considered a key member of his neighborhood, his community, and society as a whole. To me, that's what made Himinez's Leland so scary; that there are Lelands that live among us right now, good men who take noble ideals across the line of "the end justifies the means" into real and true darkness. All you've got to do is look towards Washington and you'll see Leland by the bucketfuls. Himinez's Leland wasn't really evil -- that's the tragedy. He was a good guy whose passion for his ideas cost him his soul.
Regarding technical matters, I must admit to having some trouble hearing dialog in a few of the scenes. The two most common complaints for me would be uneven balance (for instance, in Jeff Colburn's final scene, Jeff was speaking in a whisper while Christine was speaking loudly, at times yelling. It was hard for me to adjust the sound to be able to hear Jeff's dialog without being overwhelmed by Christine's lines), and music that overwhelmed dialog. But these are minor quibbles. Everlasting Films maintains what I would deem state-of-the-art quality for fan productions.
So, overall, I really really liked this story. I've gotten a few tapes from Everlasting Films before, and have quite a few stories in real audio, but Chronic Rift and Perfection Society have really made me a believer, and I plan on getting future releases on CD as soon as they are available. Great work, ladies and gentlemen!
The badly-damaged TARDIS crash lands on a distant Earth colony Kelos 3 where the exhausted new Doctor and the paranoid Christine split up and fall afoul of the locals. It transpires their society has such rigid rules of genetic purity than anyone that fails to meet the grade is vaporized. Thirteenth-century serving wench falls into this category, believe it or not. And the two-hearted Doctor isn’t safe, either. Christine is taken to be zapped live on TV. The Doctor rescues her and gets captured himself, discovers a shady government conspiracy around the definition of ‘perfect’, has the evil ringleader executed, and leaves. That’s it. Only took two whole hours, too.
While Jeffrey Coburn’s Doctor could never be said to be based on Peter Davison’s Doctor, Jim DeNatyle’s Doctor is very clearly based on Colin Baker’s. While he lacks the garish outfit, he is still portly, rude, arrogant, in love with his physical appearance, prone to speeches and incredibly ruthless behavior – see him sadistically blind an immoral scientist and then mock the crippled man afterwards; attack the Collector by causing his bluetooth to explode while wearing it. However, his pockets of weakness and unconsciousness make the character seem spiteful, and his fainting spells become more and more predictable. His complete disregard for his former self makes him less than endearing, and it is unsurprising that Christine does not believe his claims that he is the same man in a new body. However, Christine is not particularly sympathetic – she shows no pity, imagination or common sense during the first episode and her refusal to accept anything the Doctor says makes it hard to care for either her fate or the Doctor’s.
The story curiously parallels The Twin Dilemma much as The Chronic Rift paralleled The Caves of Androzani. We have a replica Sixth Doctor having a hostile relationship with his companion, lengthy TARDIS scenes, and a relatively simply plot to showcase the new actor. There’s even an identical scene where the new Doctor tries to crack the codes of the lock on the door of the room he is trapped in by a possible ally. However, while The Twin Dilemma was a planet hopping space saga, The Perfection Society is focused on one society on one planet – the opposite to the massive universe-spanning chaos of the previous story, and the sudden change in tone renders the whole thing rather trivial. Why should we care about the Kelosians, who dug a rod for their own back? Portraying the ‘moral majority’ of the populace as redneck Texans with accents straight out of South Park is not particularly subtle, either.
Part of the problem is the story is so slowly paced, with long scenes with very little happening – Christine remains in the same predicament throughout the second episode. The TARDIS crew barely appear in the first episode, and the Doctor only leaves the ship halfway through the second episode and spends most of that unconscious. The plot consists of Christine being arrested and the Doctor rescuing her. Worse, there is little dialogue, just long moralistic speeches from characters explaining their viewpoints. The story could easily be a two parter if it cut to the chase, perhaps losing the new Doctor’s painful attempts at eccentric humor as well. The cliffhanger reprises are surprisingly long too – it is three minutes into the 40-minute long episode four before we get any new material. The length of the story could accommodate six episodes, but the plot barely stretches to three.
Another part is the similar blight that strikes Vengeance on Varos – quite simply, the Kelosians have been raised for generations believing in genetic purity being a good thing. Why would any of them consider it morally wrong if they were raised with a different morality? When they are not allowed contact with outside ideals and influences? Yet it seems they have all known it was wrong but simply were too embarrassed and worried about social status to speak up or do anything.
There’s also a high level of coincidence, such as the Doctor being conveniently found by the person that could both want and be able to protect him and also desires to overturn the ruling regime. The Doctor has also heard much about this isolated colony – which in turns is either a forgotten backwater or a major power in galactic affairs, which makes you wonder why no Empire or Federation has attacked Kelos 3 for violating some equivalent of the Geneva Convention, since most people seem to know about its stance on purity and the lengths it will go to.
Although unengaging, there are good points – the central concept is a fine one, especially Leland’s “for the good of all” mentality, but this decays in the final scene to yet another half-thought-out attempt to conquer the universe. If this idea was more to the forefront of the plot, that Kelos 3 was set up to breed a super army, thus threatening the rest of the planets, we’d get some tension going. Instead, the plot rambles along like the Doctor’s post-regenerative trauma, coming to a false end before being entirely forgotten about. A disappointing end to a disappointing regeneration saga.
Personal Appreciation: **
The story seems as bored as I am, though it’s got all the makings of a cracker.
The new Doctor is taller, fatter with a thick moustache that seems to be trying to turn into a beard. Depending on what pictures you look at, he looks like a fat version of the Master, or Billy Connelly dressed as the Eighth Doctor. Perhaps as part of his regeneration, he is the total opposite of his former self – not just in looks, but in tastes: he hates his outfit, magic tricks, rabbits, frippery and the Banana Splits, and his people skills are rusty enough to require a tetanus shot. He wants a new, respectable outfit and a clean slate involving a redesigned console room. Dignity is very important to him. He on several occasions refers to his past self in the third person, like the Second Doctor did the First. Like the Sixth Doctor (who he resembles in more ways than one), he falls in love with his reflection rather than dismissing it as most other Doctors do. This is, I think we can now agree, a bad sign. The injuries that triggered his latest regeneration were so serious that the process doesn’t quite complete itself (that and the damaged TARDIS), effectively restoring his health for a short period and increasing periods of exhaustion and unconsciousness and could conceivably end in another regeneration. He confuses Melanie, Sarah (Jane Smith) and Peri with Christine (or Candice, Corrine, Cynthia, Catherine or “What’s his name?” as he calls her at some points). The old Doctor’s outfit is rigged to perform magic tricks, such as spewing out comedy flowers and the TARDIS will play Banana Splits song on the scanner at a touch of a button. He instinctively points out everyone’s flaws and lack of intelligence. His new outfit is a late 19th century suit but keeps his possessions, including his sonic screwdriver. His body language is very similar to his old self, if Christine is any judge... on second thoughts, just forget it.
Christine’s thick-headed stubborn refusal to accept new concepts reaches a new height. Not only does she rejects the idea of the Doctor changing his body, she automatically assumes the new one is an evil demon trying to bewitch her and won’t let him get a word in edgeways, which shows all the Doctor’s education has been proved a waste of time. She is in total denial at the Doctor dying, believing he is still alive despite the fact she saw him die right in front of her. She runs off into the TARDIS to sulk, gets lost, then lures the ill-looking new Doctor into a trap where she buries him in hardback books, the *****. She says “It’s impossible” about five hundred times. I mean, Dara was annoying, but THIS is something else. She automatically offers to look after a baby, and she irritates it as much as she bugs me. She is still 15 years old and falls apart when asked some basic questions. She insists on telling the truth despite the obvious benefits of being able to lie and get off scott free. She finally accepts the Doctor is who he says he is after she gets yelled at to shut up and use her brain. She freaks out again at the thought the Doctor might die again... but he doesn’t. Which shuts her up. Briefly.
Gesto is played by Chip Jamison. As such we lose sympathy for the story in the first few seconds once the titles are over...
There’s a neat symbolism between Dana giving birth at the same time the Doctor regenerates. And also the idea that midwifes are called ‘Channellers’ because they ‘channel’ babies out the ‘birth channel’ technically makes them the rudest-named characters ever. And contractions called compressions... there’s a difference you know.
Speaking of symbolism, as the Doctor regenerates so does the razorback. Pity Christine didn’t as well.
“Begone demon!” And with that sentence, you want to punch the cow unconscious.
“I do believe I’ve finally achieved perfection!” Whoa, way to flag up the story’s themes AND show the new Doctor as a smug, arrogant little ******* in one line!
The TARDIS rearranges itself around Christine. Is it trying to help her because of the old “she’s the companion and the TARDIS likes her”? Or is it because it’s trying to get the insane ***** out of the ship before she kills the owner? It goes to a lot of trouble to get Christine to the console room and out the doors – significantly into instantly fatal straits. Full fist, TARDIS, full fist.
Those two Collectors – one a stoned, mellow Frenchman and the other an incredibly furious Collector 32 – seem like sitcom material, like Whitnail and I...
I hate to seem personal, but how does Christine feed the newborn baby on her own with no baby food? Unless she’s hiding something about her private life, I think it will be difficult for her.
Seriously, that baby crying REALLY gets irritating.
There are more than ten galaxies, surely?
Malchus... shut up... quickly... that run on sentence full of exposition... flee! Flee for your lives!
Kelos rhymes with Telos. Pity. A perfect Cyberman would be just the twist this story needed.
So the battered, bloodied and partially fried outfit of the Coburn Doctor is abandoned in a museum display of Olde Earth historical costumes. Not much use to the poor, naked magician back on Earth, though, is it?
Wow. A planet that despises randomness and genetic chaos comes up with boring, sterile art. Who saw that coming boys and girls? All of you? That’s because it’s an incredible predictable plot detail, isn’t it?
“Are you mentally incompetent?” Leland sums up a lot of Christine’s character. Perceptive chap, Leland.
At one point, the female baby has a sex change and then back again while in Christine’s care. Maybe the genetic purity IS worth worrying about...
***, the Doctor’s talking about his mother! This, coupled with music from the TV Movie, a TV movie costume and TV movie title sequences, makes me think there might be a pattern here...
The Doctor’s ploy to escape is very good – rabbit on about the crap architecture until the Collector uses his communicator, giving him a chance to talk about it, then jam a sonic screwdriver in the *******’s ear.
Oh ***, a reference to Daleks... how pathetic. Racial purity = Daleks, does it?
Does anyone get the feeling no one involved in this story actually gives a ****?
Preposterous Plot Points:
How can you tell the TARDIS is bigger on the inside by touching it?
How does the Doctor know the colony was established centuries before he arrived? Especially when he’s forgotten he has a companion? (Though you could argue his piecemeal amnesia is more credible.)
If the Kelosians are so xenophobic, why do they participate in Intergalactic Olympics? Do they wash and sterilize the medals before bringing them home?
The original colonists never thought that they might face extinction if they slaughtered most of their population? Were the imperfects the only ones with brain cells? And then they add a virus? How subnormal are these freaks?
Why does the scientist mistake the Doctor, a fat moustached bloke in fancy dress holding a lockpick, as a guard? Was he perhaps blind BEFORE the incident with the UV lamp?
Let me get this straight: the indestructible razorback, capable of regrowing almost its entire body after taking the entire brunt of the TARDIS power supply is killed... by some poofy handguns?
Gesto’s death scene (strangled by the lobotomized Dana) is incredibly disturbing in plotting and execution... Shoulda happened in episode one.
The title is not actually used in the dialogue, with the closest match being:
DOCTOR: Colony ships from Earth landed several centuries ago to create The Perfect Society.
MALCHUS: Do you know what they do to imperfect sympathizers?
DOCTOR: I can only imagine it’s perfect in its irony.
Nifty speech – but it’s so late in the story, you know everything he’s going to say before he can say it:
LELAND: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen of the Southern District. This evening I am proud to announce that we have, once again, successfully managed to round up a group of imperfect subversives. Now, there’s no need to feel sorry for these people. While they are victims of unfortunate circumstance, what is to become of them should have been carried out long before birth. To have allowed them to suffer for so long with their imperfections is the highest of cruelties – a wrong which we shall put right, tonight, for the good of society! Everything we do we do for the betterment of our society. It’s better for us. It’s better for them. We shall now display those scheduled for vaporization and their times. Each will be televised so that YOU too can re-affirm your convictions.
DOCTOR: Regeneration. I regenerated. That explains the weakness in knees. And there was I thinking we were in for some bad weather.
Heh. It’s not what you think:
MALCHUS: I cannot expose myself! Not now! I will not risk my wife’s safety!
DOCTOR: Hm. These episodes I’m having are proving quite annoying.
CHRISTINE: Why dost thou call me a number?
LELAND: It is your designation. To call you by your name would make you seem... human.
The Doctor in the middle of Malchus’ bragging about his humanitarian efforts:
DOCTOR: It’s not enough.
LELAND: Gesto, perfection is not only an ideal or a goal to be obtained, it is a privilege. Not everyone is entitled to it. When one is perfect, one sets him or herself in a position to rule.
Rather than a simple pre-credits sequence of the regeneration like Apollyon, the first episode begins with the Seventh Doctor-style credits and theme music, the entire regeneration scene followed by the new title sequence based on the Eighth Doctor’s: swooping between the twin planets of Androzani, then into a starscape, a blue flash, an explosion and then the incredibly pathetic logo (now in blue) appears, revolves and hurtles down a relatively decent time vortex, a full length portrait of the new Doctor leaning on a walking stick, then a spinning TARDIS. Yep, in case you hadn’t noticed, it’s a “new era” dawning. The end credits are just the starscape vortex stuff sans photos, logos or TARDISes.
What Could Have Been Done To Improve It:
- A near total rewrite. Leave the razorback dead, speed up the action, have Kelos 3 be a forgotten colony gone bad, make Christine a bit more open minded, maybe have a memorable returning foe to lighten the story up from “the evil men do”, give the new Doctor a more original personality, lose all the boring moody speeches, lose the conquer the universe tale, come up with an exciting plot.
- Better music – they should have kept the Seventh Doctor theme, for a start.
The Awful Truth:
Like The Chronic Rift, the ideas and background situations of this story are fascinating, but the plot around them is rudimentary in the extreme, as if someone added the ideas to a generic plot – it’s seemingly a remake of The Price of Paradise. There’s a lot of running around, moralistic speeches and a lot of picking up the pieces from the previous story (six episodes not enough?!) Christine’s decent into paranoid superstition pushes her from ‘irritating yet worthy’ to ‘annoying and pointless’. It lacks any returning friends or foe and there is a palpable lack of enthusiasm in all involved. It has it’s good points (particularly with Leland) but The Perfection Society in no way feels like the start of a brand new era, especially when one knows this era will be cut short exactly the same way the one it is imitating was.
Last updated: Wednesday, April 9, 2008