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8 November 2012

Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Written By: James Goss

RRP: £8.99 (CD) / £7.99 (Download)

Release Date: 31st October 2012

Reviewed by: Matthew Davis for Doctor Who Online

Review Posted: 8th November 2012

Liz Shaw has been working as The Doctor’s assistant for a while now and in all that time she has noticed something rather sinister. People have been dying in a small number over a period of months but what links them all is that each of them were told of their death before the fact.

Each person received a letter predicting both the time and date of their demise. 

Liz has been documenting all of these strange events and trying to get The Doctor to pay attention. The Time Lord however is more concerned with restoring power to the TARDIS and escaping his exile so Liz takes it upon herself to investigate. 

It seems all the of the dead were part of committees within the Government and without the Doctor to help her, Liz has to rely on the one person with a link to all of them and just might be next for one of those letters. Her mother.

In June of this year Caroline John, known to all Doctor Who fans as Dr Elizabeth “Liz” Shaw passed away. Her character was present in only four of Jon Pertwee’s stories, but her performance as an equal to The Doctor, in intellect and stubbornness, endeared her to many fans. John was a very gifted performer and her recent work with Big Finish showed off her talents even if those stories weren’t always as strong. I’m both happy and sad to say that The Last Post is the best Liz Saw story Big Finish have done. It's just a real tragedy that this was to be the last.

The Last Post is a two-hander piece between Liz and her mother, taking place between letters, telephone calls and meetings for lunch. This structure allows for some fascinating insights into Liz’s personal life and the relationship with her mother is beautifully written.

Caroline John leaves us with a magnificent performance here; touching, witty and showing suitable frustration at The Doctor, John made Liz such a believable character and listening to this story knowing all too well that this is the last time we will hear Liz makes for a strange and moving experience. Giving Liz a family expands the character greatly and grounds her in a way that we have not really seen before. When Liz writes of her regret at missing family gatherings due to work, she comes to life as a person and not just as a third wheel for the Doctor. This is a woman experiencing terrifying situations and wants to rebuild a connection with her family, so when the threat comes too close to home, we really fear for her.

Rowena Cooper is wonderful as Emily Shaw. Emily is a warm and charming personality, both proud and somewhat disappointed with her daughter’s career path into science rather than the arts. It creates an interesting dynamic between the two. When the strange events begin to happen, James Goss smartly writes Emily as being aware of them and of her daughter’s involvement in UNIT. From the start this allows both characters to begin on an even keel and rightly so. Emily is just as intelligent and headstrong as her daughter and this is to the advantage of the play, so much so that the cliff-hanger to part one is quite frankly one of the most tense I have heard from any Big Finish story.

The Last Post takes place between Liz’s adventures with The Doctor and Goss litters the script with clever references. There is a rather cheeky nod to The War Machines and a rather tantalizing final moment between mother and daughter hinting that the characters know what is in store for The Doctor. 

Whether it was intended or not, The Last Post is a lovely tribute to Caroline John’s time with the show and a cracking mystery in its own right. It has rather more emotional resonance in the knowledge of John’s recent passing and it seems only right that her final work for Big Finish is her very best.

From the behind the scenes interview included at the end, we learn that this was planned to be the first of more adventures for Liz and Emily. It is very sad that this will not come to pass but if The Sarah Jane Adventures told us anything, it’s that Liz Shaw is still with us, on the Moonbase working for the betterment of humanity. 

I think The Doctor would be very proud.

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