They said it couldn't be done
But that don't mean it ain't the type o battle that just couldn't be won
-Some song I can't remember the title of
The Next Life = done. Finished. Caput. Bye bye! Though I can't say it's been pleasant.
In fact, looking back, I don't even know why I have it. I just remember this:
ME: Hey, Paul Darrow's in a BF. Is it any good?
EWEN: Oh, god no it's fucking terrible. It's like they let in a heap of brain-dead six year olds to write the scripts for a week. It made me want to knock my brains out with a claw hammer. Unbelievably bad. Next time I see you I'll give you a copy.
Mysterious. But not as baffling as the cliffhangers...
1 - Rassilon shows up and talks to Charley's mother, in spite of the fact that she's nothing but a hallucination. He assures that " Contrary to all appearance, [Charley's] mind is entirely under my control". Why exactly this is meant to impress us when Rassilon has already appeared in the story is truly mysterious.
2 - A bloke with a supposedly French accent yells out that the Doctor has murdered a young girl he just passed over on his elephant. The fact that the surrounding crowd is stupid enough to believe this suggests that their intelligence is insufficient to actually endanger the Doctor in any shape or form.
3 - Paul Darrow is pleased to see C'rizz. I actually realised in the next episode that the shock reveal was the fact that Darrow's character is C'rizz's father - this is surprising that the bloke with the coolest voice in Britain could begat the bloke with the most irritating, but isn't that big a shock reveal. Besides, the fact Paul's playing a religious nutter means that when he says "my son" doesn't immediately connect the phrase to its literal meaning.
4 - Daphne Ashbrook says she wants to have hot, sweaty sex with Paul McGann. Hmm.
5 - C'rizz reveals that he HAS SOLD OUT THE DOCTOR TO RASSILON! For those who weren't listening in Episode 2, when he basically said "You know what, Rassilon, I feel like selling the Doctor out. You interested?" Most listeners will actually be more distressed at the fact that Darrow's character has just been killed off in a very unceremonious and shoddily-directed way, due to him being the only endearing character in the piece.
6 - The Doctor walks into a room filled with Davros and an army of Daleks. HOLY SHIT, that's an actual cliffhanger! Oh, wait, that's the very end... *sigh*
The story really beggars my belief with so many odd decisions.
You have a 'hunt' for the Doctor arranged by angry locals... but the 'hunt' lacks any sense of speed and danger, as the Doctor walks along sharing exposition with Daphne Ashbrook, pausing only to loudly discuss things he sees with her for the benefit of the audience. The hunt is later revealed to have been nothing but an insane ploy by a badguy that makes no sense, and thus a complete waste of an episode.
Also, who thought it would be mature storytelling to get Daphne Ashbrook to play Perfection, and then have a run-in with Charley. Because I swear, there is at least a whole episode's worth of Charley and Perfection yelling their brains out at each other with shallow insults, while everyone else presumably stands about quietly. most bewildering of all is the scene where Guidance's monologue about his plans for the Church are actually interrupted by the two girls arguing for a couple of minutes, before then continuing as if the interruption never took place! And, am I really the only one who thinks it a teeny-weeny bit sexist for the two woman to immaturely hurl insults at one another due to liking the same guy?
And what's with bringing back Zagreus? Somehow I don't think BF fans desperately wanted to hear that poem again... "Zagreus sits inside your head, Zagreus sleeps among the dead, Zagreus sees you in your bed, and eats you when you're sleeping." The revelation brings about incredibly camp dialogue as well - in Zagreus, the titular story, he seemed restricted to yelling out "SHIP!" and "I AM ZAGREUS!". Now he gets gold like this exchange:
"I didn't really buy into your story of re-populating the Universe..."
(in mockney accent) "Ya di'n Adam 'n Eve it?!"
Keep really is the biggest problem. Apparently he is the creature created by Charley and the Doctor in Scherzo. That makes no sense. On many levels. His 'French' accent (though it varies from English to Russian to Breakfast Radio Indian, with only a couple of stops at French on the way) is apparently derived from Charley, who can speak fluent French thanks to her uncle. Yet she doesn't have a French accent, and neither does the Doctor. Also noticeable is the fact that neither the Doctor or Charley are gestaltic entities capable of shape-shifting, expanding, and controlling other lifeforms, but these are abilities that Keep has in abundance, in addition to being unable to die. Yes, he can't die. Impressive given that he seemed to be dead at the end of Scherzo. Hmm.
Keep's plan makes even less sense than he does - he takes over a young girl to track the Doctor. Then kills the young girl and blames the Doctor for the death against all evidence so a hunt will start for the Doctor. This is to lead Keep to the Foundry - how does he know the Doctor will go there, though? He has a whole island to run through! It's also later revealed that he actually WAS the villagers following him... so why did he need a pretense to hunt the Doctor?
This leads to even more inconsistencies in Keep's existence... how can his entire plan be based around the idea of hunting the Doctor when asking Guidance for his advice reveals that he doesn't understand the justice system - this suggests Guidance was in on the plan but we later learn that he wanted to find the Foundry before Keep. Why is he worried about the Doctor killing him when it's later established that he can't die? Why is he so easily humiliated by the Doctor when he serves up a meal of worms and still-living beetles, aiming purely to disgust the Doctor, but has to eat some himself and is nearly sick - if he's a gestalt that absorbs life, logically it should be second nature to him! His behaviour suggests that Keep spent nearly the entire story playing dumb extremely well - but I truly have no idea what he had to gain from any of this crap.
This leads to undoubtedly the most pressing question of THE NEXT LIFE: how a story can have so many villains, and yet lack any credible ones.
Guidance is the easiest to take seriously, but is fundamentally unambitious and not very bright. He wants to find the Church of the Foundation and then... do something? He only seems to want the universe to end, which it will do anyway.
Keep, as I've said, is a terribly acted and seemingly moronic French shape-shifter. Despite having an evil plan to conquer all of existence, there are no moments to convince you of any true power because he spends most of the story 'pretending' to be an effeminate retard.
Zagreus..well, it's fucking Zagreus, people...
Rassilon is astonishingly ineffectual in every possible way, with Russell steadfastly refusing to give him any vaguely readable dialogue. The Kro'ka is a nerdy sounding bloke (though he DOES start sounding like Zagreus in episode six for some reason) who giggles a lot and generally gets all the dialogue that was deemed to crap for Rassilon to say - apparently he was the villain for most of the arc as well!
C'rizz goes without saying. But I'll say it anyway: he sucks.
Something Ewen pointed out in his piss-take of The Next Life, but which I seriously couldn't believe could be true, is that all these villains kill each other, with no interference from the Doctor. Yes, all of them. Guidance gets his eyes torn out by Keep, Zagreus throws Rassilon and Kro'ka into the dawn of the divergent universe, and Keep strangles Zagreus while the Doctor pisses off. The Doctor only wins because he took so long to get to his own TARDIS. Un-sodding-believable.
In fact, throughout the story the Doctor does incredibly little, except at some unspecified points work out Keep and Perfections' secrets and telepathically begging the Kro'ka save him from lava. Sigh.
If The Next Life had simply been a freakishly-poor story in the BF schedule it still would be remarkable for its sheer terribleness. But presented as a major 'event' story for the range? Well... all you can do is laugh.
I did. Quite a bit actually. Certainly not at the bits they intended, but I did laugh.
In fact, this audio may well have me re-considering Doomsday's current title of "worst piece of Doctor Who ever conceived"...
EDIT: Oh, I forgot to go into detail about how ridiculous the end of this frigging thing was. After all of the badguys kill each other off in excessively stupid ways, the Doctor is left with a clear escape route seconds before the divergent universe collapses. It's at this stage C'Rizz decides to be a complete dick and correct Charley's grammar. The Doctor gets really, really pissed off at this point and just rants ad nauseum at C'Rizz and Charley for not getting along, and decides that unless they go all emo in the next minute he'll just let them all die along with the universe.
C'Rizz and Charley thus come out with the most forced character-building crap ever in any show, before the Doctor is satisfied and leaves. Next time we hear them, though, they're still insulting one another over nothing. Grr!
Most perplexing, though, is Russell obviously thought that Keep wasn't enough of a two-fingered salute to the brilliance of Scherzo, and thus plagiarises a massive chunk of the story at the end, as Kro'ka and Rassilon now take on the roles of The Doctor and Charley respectively, trapped in the experiment. Yes, just in case Rassilon hadn't lost enough credibility. And when I say 'massive chunk' I mean it. At least three minutes of somebody else's work to pad out the ending. I had to scrape my jaw off the floor.