Free Speech is the winner of 2020’s ‘Paul Spragg Memorial Short Trips Opportunity’. Celebrating the life of the late Big Finish staffer, the competition opens the door to fresh talent by inviting story submissions. The winning idea is then developed, recorded and finally released for free.
This year’s tale, by Eugenie Pusenjak, was chosen by a judging panel which included writer Robert Shearman and DWM scribe / Doctor Who: Lockdown producer Emily Cook.
Set on the world of Skaz, the story follows the police interrogation of Aymius Todd. Arrested on suspicion of his involvement in a banned organisation, the Garrulous Liberation, he tells the tale of an encounter with the Doctor. Aymius chooses his words carefully because speech is tightly controlled; regulated on a price per word basis and tallied by a chip embedded in the tongue.
Pusenjak’s story is cleverly conceived, with a built-in urgency as Aymius has a limited ability to tell his tale. Judiciously marshalling his spoken words, we learn about the society on Skaz with the things he cannot afford to say. The idea of its financially restrictive class structure is certainly a thought provoking, if horrific, concept!
Through this unusual framing device, the Doctor is a character viewed though another’s eyes. An agent of change, his spontaneous streams of consciousness mark him out in a world of restricted language.
The multi-talented Jacob Dudman performs Free Speech, providing his excellent Tenth Doctor as well as the other inhabitants of Skaz. We wondered if the Northern-accented police officer was perhaps a nod to the Ninth Doctor?
Free Speech is not the only Tenth Doctor Short Trip abroad this month, with the last of the regularly monthly downloads, The Shattered Hourglass, also available – and, while you are there, we heartily recommend the previous winners Forever Fallen, Landbound, The Last Day at Work and The Best-Laid Plans. All are available free from the Big Finish website.