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27 August 2012

Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Written By: Matt Fitton

RRP: £14.99 (CD) / £12.99 (Download)

Release Date: 31st August 2012

Reviewed by: Matthew Davis for Doctor Who Online

Review Posted: 27th August 2012

Ace and Hex have just suffered severe mental and psychical torture. Caught in one of The Doctor’s schemes they just barely survived the wrath of Elder Gods. Finally escaping into a now black coloured TARDIS they discover that they are not alone. Inside is former Forge operative Lysandra Astrides and soldier Sally Morgan. 

Both of these women have encountered The Doctor and now claim to have been travelling with him for some months. Confused and seemingly thrown together by design, all of them will have to get past their mutual distrust of one another in the search for The Doctor. By a twist of fate the travellers are separated, arriving in the past and future of one man whose story and name will pass into legend as will the name of the monster he vanquishes. Does the true story about Beowulf and Grendel have any clues to The Doctor’s whereabouts and will the missing Time Lord’s carefully laid plans fall apart at the seams?

Black and White is a story that requires prior knowledge of the last couple of years of Seventh Doctor stories. It is here that the various plot threads that have been littered throughout finally begin to come together. Through the use of flashbacks Matt Fitton does an admirable job of reminding us of all these little clues for anyone coming to this fresh. Your enjoyment of the play however will be increased with an awareness of what has gone on before. 

Black and White is a difficult story to review as a more in-depth examination would give away far too much. In keeping with Doctor Who Online’s spoiler-free policy I will not go into too much detail about what happens except to address some key points.

The Black and White TARDIS plot thread is finally given clarity which reveals some rather fascinating revelations about past adventures and the nature of the TARDIS is general. We get hints as to where this trilogy is heading and it is all strongly linked to adventures gone by. Listening to Black and White makes you want to re-listen to all of the last few Seventh Doctor plays just to see how long this whole plotline has been gestating. 

Not all the answers are given here though as I’m sure all will be fully revealed in the final play of the trilogy Gods and Monsters. Black and White certainly ramps up the excitement for that particular release.

In amongst the revelations is the story of Beowulf and the reality of the how the legend came to be. The difficulty with Black and White is to make room for the lead plot exposition but allow its other story to develop and breathe and it is a credit to Matt Fitton that it does. This story about the reality of the legend of Beowulf could easily have been an adventure in its own right, but as will become clear when you listen carefully; it is linked to the bigger plot going on. Black and White is very entertaining and moves along at a cracking pace thanks to excellent direction by Ken Bentley.

The performances from the main cast are fantastic. It is a real joy to hear Maggie O’Neill and Amy Pemberton as their characters from previous stories Project: Destiny and House of Blue Fire now interacting with our familiar TARDIS crew. Philip Olivier and Sophie Aldred work alongside these new team members really well and there is enough distrust and suspicion to keep the character dynamic always interesting. 

The supporting cast is very strong too - the highlight being Stuart Milligan as Garundel, a character who sounds like a camp and bitchy Billy Crystal. Milligan gives a very funny and memorable performance and it certainly does put a unique twist on the Beowulf legend. 

While not always perfect, Black and White is an entertaining and shocking second chapter which sets up a very promising conclusion to this already fascinating trilogy. 

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