10.03 The Integral


The third of four adventures in The Second Doctor Volume 01 from the Big Finish range of The Companion Chronicles is The Integral.  This story, written by David Bartlett and directed by Lisa Bowerman, opens with a scientist doing experiments on an apparently violent madman.

In the TARDIS, Jamie and Zoe are arguing over nothing of significance.  Jamie is adamant that the galaxy is filled with monstrous enemies that always want to kill them based on his travels in the TARDIS, whilst Zoe is equally adamant that there are many species out there that are calm and gentle folk.  The Doctor doesn’t really want to support either argument, because both are true.

They land in a dome on an alien world, a bit like a prison camp for the irrationally violent.  They discover that a particularly virulent computer game, since outlawed, caused many people to turn violent due to their neural pathways making them see only the game – so everyone who isn’t as violent as them are valid targets for brutal killing.

In the heat of the argument, as they step out of the TARDIS, Jamie is suddenly very calm and content with what he sees.  Then he becomes argumentative again, before calming right down, much to the bewilderment of Zoe.

It turns out that they’re in an asylum of sorts, overseen by aliens called The Integral.  They emit an absorption field that helps eliminate violent thoughts from the patients that they call “clients”.  Due to cost savings, a scientist and his staff are trying to come up with an artificial means of generating the absorption field

Meanwhile, the number of Integral aliens are diminishing.  Despite the anti-violence absorption field, someone is killing them off.  The less of them there are, the less effective the field is, and the more the scientist’s device is needed.  The Doctor and Zoe, however, determine that there’s something wrong with the scientist’s calculations and the device will not be able to do what the Integral do.

The Integral is a bit of a “base under siege” story with the clients taking the part of zombies when they turn violent.  As a backdrop to this is a story of politics, money, consequences, and ego.  A traditional kind of story that has a touch of everything.

There’s time for some modernist commentary with Zoe questioning why a female assistant is eager to take orders from her male superior, because in her time such issues of gender inequality have been conquered (she doesn’t, however, have any qualms about the female aliens telling the male scientist what to do – so presumably not all gender inequality has been conquered after all).

There’s also an intriguing concept in the argument between Zoe and Jamie.  Jamie sees everything in black and white, as it makes him a better warrior when he knows who his enemy is.  Zoe’s contention is that she lives in a society where everyone’s alternative/opposing opinion is considered equal.  When Jamie has his focus removed by the absorption field, he no longer knows who his enemy is because he now thinks like Zoe and can consider all perspectives.  As a consequence, he loses his self-confidence and is less assured of his abilities when the attacks begin.

This is an intriguing line of thought but, sadly, one that isn’t explored.  What isn’t considered is that if everyone did think the way Zoe says she and her society does, in that they’d consider everyone’s perspective equally, then no one would actually have any perspective or opinion of their own because they wouldn’t be able to form one from all the others that are equal.  It would lead to a breakdown of society, with people descending into zombies of no individual thought, not a glorious age of enlightenment.  This isn’t explored, however, except to see that the “clients” in the absorption field are portrayed as walking dead zombies.

In this third story, Frazer Hines continues voicing Jamie and the Second Doctor, although his Doctor voice is becoming less distinctive now.  Wendy Padbury recaptures the youthful Zoe extremely well, except when she has great lines of technical prose.  Zoe should rattle these off second nature, but Padbury often has trouble making the technobabble sound natural.  Perhaps more rehearsal/read-through time for these pieces would have been useful.

The narration is mostly done by Wendy Padbury but with most of the other characters (including the aliens) being female, it’s difficult to distinguish between each one.  This is also true when she voices the male scientist.  Thankfully the presence of Frazer Hines spares us from Padbury’s vocal interpretation of Zoe’s two companions.

The Integral is definitely better than The Story of Extinction, but it’s not as good as The Mouthless Dead.  As a base under siege story, however, it’s has the staple elements that ensure there’s something here to keep your attention.

Next is the final story in this set, entitled The Edge, also featuring Jamie and Zoe.