Takeover Ad
Takeover Ad
12 March 2021

Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Written By: James Kettle

RRP: £14.99 (CD) / £12.99 (Download)

Release Date: February 2021

Reviewed by: Nick Mellish for Doctor Who Online


"The TARDIS brings the Doctor and Turlough to a high-tech scientific installation on the planet Testament in the distant future. The human race have become intergalactic buccaneers, thanks to their ability to generate vast amounts of power for long-distance travel. Testament is the source of that power – and the Doctor has never quite understood how it works.

But experiments are underway on Testament - experiments with potentially explosive and devastating consequences. And even the Doctor may be too late to stop it.

With politicians and bureaucrats getting in the way, the race is on. Not to stop a disaster - but to save as many people as possible.."

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

There’s a line in The Blazing Hour delivered in an off-the-cuff manner: “Trust is for children and acrobats.”  I heard the line, smiled a little, and did that silent laugh you do when hearing something amusing.

Days later I’m reflecting upon it. Why? Because that line is the single best line of dialogue in any Big Finish play for a while now. (The last to stick in my mind before this is the Fifth Doctor talking about The Great British Bake Off in Time Apart: perhaps it’s a Davison thing?)

This line here isn’t trying to pay tribute to a past victory or imitate another writer, or flat-out copy something previously said on screen, all three of which crop up time and again nowadays in these plays. It’s just an original, and memorable line of dialogue.

The rest of James Kettle’s script likewise has an air of freshness to it. Maybe it’s because it’s his first full story for the monthly range, or maybe it’s because Kettle is a relatively new writer to the Big Finish fold, not yet ground to exhaustion by writing dozens of scripts across dozens of ranges. Whatever the case, there’s a sense across The Blazing Hour that Kettle is relishing the opportunity to write for the Doctor and Turlough.

The plot for this one is simple; the Doctor and Turlough land on a scientific installation and are mistaken for tourists, which is good fortune as the Doctor is suspicious of Testament, an incredible source of power in operation here, and sets out to investigate. Before too long, Turlough is in a gift shop, managers are forcing their staff into dangerous and regrettable actions, and politicians are desperate to keep their hands clean and their profits high. The guest cast is very good, with Raj Ghatak and Rakie Ayola putting in memorable performances. You’ll hate them both, their greed and selfishness almost tangible and perfectly thematically suited to the story unfolding. There’s some especially nice, cringey political spin about economic downturns and the adverse productivity of grief from Ayola’s character Violet Hardaker that works really well and makes you root for our heroes.

Speaking of, Turlough in particular gets a meaty role in this one. Mark Strickson is up for the challenge, reminding us once again just how good an actor he really is. People can level whatever pot shots they wish against Doctor Who in the 1980s, but they cast the regulars really well, with the much-maligned Adric shining nowadays on audio and Mel getting a serious reappraisal, too.

The 1980s cast a long shadow over this play as a whole. Corporations running their workers into the ground, greed over sense and underhand political maneuvering feel very much in that era’s wheelhouse. The Fifth Doctor doesn’t ever quite feel true to the TV iteration of him, but that’s true of his plays as a whole, ditto the Fourth and perhaps even Tenth Doctors, too. It’s a wider Big Finish thing than any fault of the script here. Less successful is the self-sacrifice of Violet near the end, which doesn’t quite ring true despite the script trying to explain it away (always a sign that something’s not entirely working, when the script goes out of its way to defend it), and I’m never comfortable about rendering regular cast members disabled only to magically restore it later on (see Turlough here. Much like the Twelfth Doctor’s temporary blindness on screen, it never sits right with me).

Whatever quibbles I may have though are put to rest elsewhere. Whether intentional or not, the first three Big Finish releases in the monthly range of plays were a multi-Doctor story, one featuring the Fifth Doctor, and then one featuring the Sixth. We’ve gone in reverse order here, with the Sixth Doctor last month, the Fifth Doctor this month, and a multi-Doctor story to finish things off.

I’ve said it before, but right now there is a sense of effort and a willingness to shake formulas up in these monthly plays that’s worked well. It is perhaps too little too late for a range at its end that’s been gasping for air for ages now, but it’s welcome all the same, and this play, aptly, is testament to that.


+ The Blazing Hour is OUT NOW, priced £14.99 (CD) / £12.99 (Download).

+ ORDER this title on Amazon!


RSS Feed
News Key
News Home
General
The New Series
The Classic Series
Spinoffs
Merchandise
Site
Blog Entries
Reviews Key
Reviews Home
Books / Magazines
DVD / Blu-ray
Audio
Toys / Other
TV Episodes
Search
Retro Tees