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8 January 2020

Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Written By: Alan Terigo, Susan Dennom, Andrew Lias & Nev Fountain

RRP: £14.99 (CD) / £12.99 (Download)

Release Date: December 2019

Reviewed by: Nick Mellish for Doctor Who Online


Blood On Santa's Claw by Alan Terigo

"The Doctor, Peri and Joe land on the planet Naxios, where they discover the body of Father Christmas.

Who killed him? The strange individuals dressed in Shakespearian costume or the talking animals wearing waistcoats digging in the tunnels?"

The Baby Awakes by Susan Dennom

"The Doctor, Peri and Joe visit the Ishtar institute, where the term 'designer babies' takes on a new and sinister meaning. Will our heroes survive Christmas day?"

I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day by Andrew Lias

"A Christmas party that's been going on for three years. Strange silver robots who guard the Christmas decorations with lethal force. What is the secret behind the festivities on Tate Galactic?" 

Brightly Shone The Moon That Night by Nev Fountain

"The TARDIS crew encounters a shameful secret of the Time Lords. History has been rewritten, and this time it's all the Doctor's fault."  

WARNING: The following review contains spoilers. You have been warned!

Ho ho ho! Just as Christmas is an annual event, so too is the Big Finish 4x4 play and this year we have Blood on Santa’s Claw.

In the past, some of these releases have given us completely standalone plays (such as Circular Time) and some have linked them (1001 Nights, for example). Blood does the latter whilst trying to trick you into believing it’s the former. (This subterfuge extends to just who wrote the various plays, with pseudonyms being used to try and throw you off track.) I’m not sure this trick entirely works seeing as the second play opens with beats very reminiscent of the first one, and that alone was enough to make me fairly sure that everything here was going to be connected, but hats off to them all the same for giving it a go, even if I am unsure why they did it. To give the plays an air of mystery? To try and make Joe, Peri’s boyfriend in these plays, feel more of a permanent fixture and less a one-shot character?

Perhaps the latter, though I cannot recall any publicity trying to hint at future appearances for him. Because of this, from the get go I was looking for hints that he was up to no good, so when this was revealed I was less than shocked, but then again I do listen to an awful lot of Big Finish Doctor Who releases, so this may not be the case for other fans.

The release kicks off with the titular Blood on Santa’s Claw, which is not only the best play in this anthology by some chalk but also the best play Big Finish have put out for ages now. I found myself laughing hard at times and wishing to know more about the world it painted. This sense of joy is enhanced by great performances across the board, but I’ll draw especial attention here to Heather Bleasdale as Cordelia and Becky Wright as Mole, all of whom impressively stand out in a cast that is universally brilliant.

The Baby Awakes was probably my least favourite of the plays, being one which puts Peri through the emotional wringer but which never really hit for me. It tries very hard to get a reaction and twinge from its listeners, and for me it felt like it perhaps tried too hard to do so, and was less natural in its intent.

We end with what is in actuality a two-parter. Now, I mentioned earlier that I listen to a lot of Big Finish Doctor Who plays, so some things will inevitably strike me as repetitive or old in a way that would not occur for others who have listened to far less. This may help explain that when the antagonists overall were revealed to be werewolf-like creatures, I just sighed. Much like their obsession with Vardans, Big Finish seem to be using werewolves a lot at the moment, be it in the main range or in things like their War Master series, and I had an acute sense of déjà vu as a result. It doesn’t help that the same two or three wolf noises are used again and again in the background upon their revelation, looping, but I do wonder if that’s actually an in-joke of sorts as this looping wolf noise is near identical (if not the very same one) to one used in countless BBC TV shows, including The Time Meddler.  Perhaps this is just Big Finish poking fun and adding to a sense of televisual authenticity? I applaud them for it if it is that, and if not then… well, it’s irritating but I’ll let it pass. It’s Christmas, after all.

Speaking of, the Christmas theme felt slightly shoehorned in at times, but never to the extent that it was distracting. I do wonder though if this will herald in more Christmas specials as annual events now? I hope not. I’ve mentioned before that Big Finish often suffer from a feeling of revisiting past glories with threadbare results, and I’m not sure this should be encouraged further still.

As for this particular release, as a four-play series it didn’t wow me: but! It is worth the admission price for the opening story alone. Everything that comes after is fun enough and Nev Fountain (for it is he who wrote them all) is enjoying himself, but for a Christmas treat alone, Blood on Santa’s Claw as an individual episode is perhaps the best I could have received as a Doctor Who fan: inventive, clever, amusing, and brilliantly acted, this is the Christmas treat we’ve been craving and the best Christmas Special the show has had for a long time.

For that alone, I cannot help but leave this play with a smile.


+ Blood on Santa's Claw and Other Stories is OUT NOW, priced £14.99 (CD) / £12.99 (Download).

+ ORDER this title on Amazon!


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