REVIEW: Doctor Who – Embrace the Darkness (2002)

An Audio Drama by Big Finish (#31 in the main range)

With the Doctor Who audio dramas being in a medium where one does not have to have any sort of visuals to enjoy the story, it’s really a rich playground for stories like today’s topic to flourish. Embrace the Darkness takes place largely in total darkness, a setting that would be either completely idiotic or insanely brave to attempt to pull off in any sort of movie or TV show (not sure which), so it’s well-suited for audio. There are a handful of these sorts of dramas I have listened to, and I feel like this sort of concept is probably the best that I’ve heard so far.

“The Doctor and Charley travel to the remote Cimmerian System to unravel the mystery of its sun. But darkness has already embraced the scientific base on Cimmeria IV in more ways than one. In a fight for survival, the Doctor must use all his wits against a deadly artificial life-form and an ancient race whose return to the Cimmerian System threatens suffering and death on an apocalyptic scale.”

Embrace the Darkness is genuinely terrifying early on. The idea that somebody could be stranded on a planet in total darkness, only to have some unseen alien race literally eat their eyes out is horrific. The moments we hear characters screaming, crying or laughing due to their ordeal is crazy, one just has to close their eyes and think of such a situation to see how rough it would be. Imagine being driven to madness through the pain of such an ordeal – I’m not sure I could deal with it. Sadly this atmosphere only lasts for about half of the adventure, which was unfortunate.

The Cimmerian race is realized in a cool way, in one of the few instances where the sound engineer really used stereo sound to a degree we’re not used to, the voices float from left to right as they speak giving a strange effect almost similar to hypnosis or ASMR audios. It gives the listener an idea that The Cimmerians are both numerous and somewhat ethereal as they whisper menacingly in your ear to “embrace the darkness.” Keep in mind, the characters experiencing this cannot see anything whatsoever, so I know I would be freaked out. Their physical description is somewhat bland, but considering you aren’t actually supposed to see them, the fear of hearing this odd voice while your eyes burn out of your head is quite scary.

This opening premise unravels a bit as the story progresses, and the horror-laden mystery gives way to a series of comfortable Doctor Who tropes as they always do. Had they writers kept up a pure horror story, I’m sure this would have been an instant classic. That isn’t to say this is bad or anything, just a bit of a missed opportunity. What we do have is cool, and definitely keeps up the quality that I have grown accustomed to from these Eighth Doctor and Charley episodes.

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