23 June 2014

AFT: The Hive Mind

The Hive Mind is the second in the series of AFT Flash animations, and follows on directly from the first - Ood in Space. It is again presented in three chapters, which each end on a mini-cliffhanger of their own. I have to say, I think this was better than the first story. One thing I'm noticing with this series is that although they're obviously very short, they do tend to cover a very short period of time, with one scene comprising the majority of each story. This isn't necessarily a criticism, more an observation that perhaps each adventure fits more naturally as a chapter in a longer story, rather than simply being part of an arc.

There's a lot to like in The Hive Mind. Writer Phil Lawrence is never afraid to think big, which is definitely to be commended. Comic strips offer certain opportunities presented in other mediums. Whereas in books and audio, there is also no limit to the scope of a story, this is more easily presented in the form of comics. If you can draw (or in this case Photoshop) it, it can be done. But beyond the concept of scale, another selling point of this medium is its 'house style'. What I mean by this is that things are a bit more eccentric - rather than just having a computer in control of the transpores, Lawrence has a sodding giant brain. This is the kind of cheek and boldness that I love in the Action Figure Theatre stories. Since taking a look at Ood in Space, your reviewer has learned that Mr L will be contributing a four-part adventure to one of Big Finish's ranges next year - which is brilliant news in itself - and I'm sure that he will bring of this substance and confidence to whatever scenario he's devised.

Sorry about that, bit of a tangent. So, Martha pilots the TARDIS to the source of the transpores (accidentally, it would seem) and immediately meets Costarr, her co-star for the next few minutes. He begs her to take him with her, but she claims she can't fly the TARDIS, despite having just piloted it right on course. Ms Jones is quickly introduced to the titular mastermind behind the spores and learns his party trick: destroying the planets of his prisoners ready for consumption. Obviously both Martha and Costarr are keen to avoid this, so the former tries a tactic she may have seen the Doctor trying on occasion. She tells it to stop. And for a moment, it does - with some delicious dialogue.

But it's all a trick. Having sent Costarr back to his homeworld, the Mind devours it. I thought it was a really nice touch that it was the same planet as used in Backwards because the same figure was reused. It's little tricks like this that mark this out as a fan production - you can tell the creator genuinely cares and has a vested interest. It's no real surprise that Costarr is killed off, given that he doesn't conform to the style of figure. The Doctor rocks up just as a transpore is sent towards Earth after an Axos-like probe scans Martha.

He tries his signature move of offering it a chance to stop before sailing off in the TARDIS with his three companions. When it scanned him, he imagined the closest burning sun, so as the Mind tries to consume it, it of course explodes. There's a really nice circularity to the last two adventures revealed at the conclusion. The sphere the Doctor was chasing at the open of Ood in Space is the same one sent towards Earth in this story. This is a really neat trick and I'm really pleased with it. It makes sense, is logical and ties up loose ends. I've said it before and no doubt I'll say it again: Steven Moffat - take note. 

That sums up this tale really. It's really imaginative and works within the principals set out. The animation is really good. One of my favourite examples of this is when the brain's eyes (as Paint-created as they look) slow when Martha tells the Mind to stop rather than just simply halting. It's hard to understand what I mean without seeing it. Overall, it worked well and aided the story. The visuals were mostly impressive (with only the join between walls of the set in Chapter One letting the side down a little) and the story was definitely enjoyable. I'm loving this series, as it serves both the regulars well and delivers on every front. The music is well matched and it's great to see Lawrence's directorial style in the moving image for once too. I look forward to where the story moves next.

I must just mention my favourite shot of the story too. It's when the Doctor and Martha are looking up at the brain. Great shot. 

You can watch The Hive Mind here.

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