23 August 2014

AFT: The Silence of the Drums

Arguably one of the easiest and most tempting thing to do in action figure stories is recreate scenes from the show or devise alternate scenarios using the same characters. The latter is what Phil's gone for in The Silence of the Drums. This episode begins a four-part season finale that picks up exactly where Utopia leaves off. This is very much a 'what if?'. Owing to the short running time of each episode, I'd be inclined to substitute Silence and the next (The Fate of the Obliviate) for The Sound of Drums and The Doctor's Army and Grim Reaping (the final two) for Last of the Time Lords. The 2007 series was a really strong one in my eyes, so it's nice to have this alternate ending explored.

We begin in exactly the same way as The Sound of Drums did, with the Doctor, Martha and Jack materialising by the bins and realising something's wrong. However, what's wrong here is that London has been evacuated a month before they arrive, which Martha and Jack distinctly remember not happening. Before they can get any further, Jack is shot by an oncoming Assault Dalek (which I think is the closest we'll come to the Special Weapons Dalek nowadays) and displaced in time. The Doctor and Martha are cornered by a Skarosian squad and decide to split up. The latter is apprehended by a Dalek, and the former taken to their new leader. The cliffhanger reveals to us that the Master is now a Humanoid-Dalek Hybrid (reusing the Dalek Sec Hybrid figure). 

Despite being so short, this is a really fast-paced episode, and does cram quite a lot in. There's no answers as to Jack's location yet, and the Doctor and Martha are in the clutches of the Daleks. Marking out from the start that this is an alternate timeline makes everything a bit more dangerous, particularly looking at what's happened with the Master. This means that you're not quite sure if your heroes will survive this time, especially as it's the finale and therefore a bit more daring than usual. 

This is, as always on the AFT, well written and structured. It's written for the format, which immediately means it works better in the final presentation, and some wise editing choices are made. Less use is made of animation within frames here than in The Hive Mind, but there's still some impressive panning and other neat visual tricks comics wouldn't achieve as effectively. I did really like the high-angle shots of Martha in Chapter Three, and I can't help wondering if they're foreshadowing something that appears in later episodes (spoilers: I have seen this before). The Dalek's bolts are done really well, not just in appearance but the timing - inconsistent but persistant. 

The Dalek-Master Hybrid concept is an exciting idea, and I can't wait to see where the story takes that particular strand. As Phil notes in the Behind The Scenes, it was inevitable in Evolution of the Daleks that the human side of the persona would win out eventually, but here you can't be sure because the Master arguably never behaves with much humanity. I look forward to some evil scheming and plotting over the next three episodes. Although this idea was inspired by what figures were released (as acknowledged by Phil) that doesn't devalue it as it's a highly inventive and novel concept. Nowhere else have I seen anything similar to this, which could be taken two ways, but it's obviously meant well.

The incidental music is again well timed and chosen, emphasising the heightening tension in all the right places. And what a great title, subtly revealing the quashing of the Master whilst still keeping the big twist for the final shot. Overall this is an exciting start to the finale and with all the intriguing ideas presented, I can't wait to see where it's taken. The AFT Flash series is proving a massive hit with me, and I'm really glad I chose to revisit it.

In a Nutshell: A dramatic and engaging opening to what promises to be a spectacular 'what if?' story.

You can watch The Silence of the Drums here.

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