Nicholas Briggs is a very passionate man when it comes to things he loves. The Light at the End, Dalek Empire, Cybermen, The Sixth Doctor: The Last Adventure, and The Prisoner were all pet projects of his and they encompass some of his best work, but in those first few years of Big Finish his track record was very hit or miss which wouldn’t really become more solid with Creatures of Beauty. The Sirens of Time and Sword of Orion were completely serviceable with nothing really special and The Mutant Phase was still good amongst some extreme flaws, but his worst audio I have the honor of looking at today. Embrace the Darkness is an obvious concept to do for an audio drama with the story taking place in complete darkness. This should make this story a horror story playing on our fear of the dark much like the premise of Trevor Baxendale’s Fear of the Dark, which it tries to do for the first two parts until Briggs pulls the twist which ruins any sort of tension that was being.
The story involves the Doctor and Charley deciding to investigate the Cimmerian System which at a certain point in history just had its sun go out plunging the planets into eternal darkness. They arrive on Cimmeria IV where there is an exploration team that has become trapped in the darkness as it is spreading into any sort of light and creatures are tearing out their eyes. The story then becomes a mystery until the reveal that there is a second race coming in to kill the system after the Cimmerians have actually been doing it to make their eyesight better which ruins previous body horror seen. Then it is revealed the Solarians who are coming are just Cimmerians. Add this with the last portion of the audio just being them try to escape which is extremely boring. The story feels like someone interfered in this story so it would become less dark which is a big problem as this is a type of story that needs to have its darker aspects brought out.
The direction of the actors doesn’t help matters as the performances of the supporting cast are extremely over the top making it hard to take them seriously. Briggs was the one to direct which is strange because he usually does well with direction, but here something feels lacking. I can praise Jim Mortimore for his brilliantly chilling music for this story which I honestly think is with the other music of the audios. The supporting cast is all over the top and the script makes them all stereotypical salvage crew for Doctor Who which I really don’t like. The biggest offender is Nicola Boyce as Orllensa who is just as stereotypical for the leader and has several moments of voice cracking. Paul McGann and India Fisher are both serviceable in this story even if McGann shows that he isn’t very interested with the script he was given.
To summarize, Embrace the Darkness has some ideas which are really good in its premise but feels like the true fear factor had to be toned down. The acting is all over the place, the characters are boring but it has got some great sound design and music by the brilliant Jim Mortimore. The story doesn’t even really tie into the arc which makes it one of those mid-season drag stories. 30/100