Big Finish Folly, Part 52 – The Chaos Pool, by Peter Anghelides
This last part of the Key2Time trilogy has a lot to live up to – The Destroyer of Delights quite rightly bagged all five stars last time around. Anghelides doesn’t hold back; indeed he throws everything except the kitchen sink into the mix to resolve the mass of plot strands already flailing through the Vortex. Not content with that brief however, he reaches back to bring the original sixth segment of the Key into the story.
Lalla Ward gets a fantastic opportunity to reprise Princess Astra – now a desperately weary survivor on a quest to save her people. Of course it isn’t made absolutely clear at the start that this is her as Astra, not as Romana, and I think the confusion (to my ears at least) is quite deliberate. On the other side, there are the rather repugnant erm… space slugs. Carnivorous space slugs. You don’t get many of them to the pound.
Every named character gets a decent storyline, with themes of mortality ever-present, giving this – chronologically the last Fifth Doctor adventure before his TV regeneration tale – an extra piquancy that Angehlides must be aware of, since he has given the Doctor some prescient lines about helping anybody he can. And there’s lots of death involved anyway, especially with Hectocot and his troops chomping down on anything that moves. The now-human Tracers reach the end of their arc too, leaving the way clear for further adventures (Graceless, anyone?).
Having Astra as the sixth segment this time around would be far too obvious and Anghelides saves the best trick for last. If you want, you could compare this sequence of tales to David Eddings’ Belgariad and Mallorean fantasy epics, except that while Eddings’ plots repeated themselves mercilessly to emphasise the predestined nature of prophesy, Big Finish have made certain to pull and poke at the tropes of the original Key To Time, thus making the whole an entertaining affair.