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Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who
A Thousand Tiny Wings


Starring: Sylvester McCoy
Big Finish Productions
RRP: £14.99 (CD), £12.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 84435 433 7
Available 31 January 2010

1950s Kenya: the Mau Mau uprising. A disparate group of women lie low in a remote house in the jungle, waiting for a resolution or for rescue. Among these British imperialists is Elizabeth Klein, a refugee from a timeline that no longer exists - thanks to the Doctor. Reunited, the Doctor and Klein are forced by terrifying circumstances to set aside their differences. People are dying in this remote place, one by one, and there’s something out there, in the jungle, something that is accompanied by the flutter of a thousand tiny wings...

A Thousand Tiny Wings is, as writer Andy Lane explains in his sleeve notes and in the interviews at the end of Disc 1, the antithesis of The Thing From Another World, the movie from which he was asked to draw inspiration for this audio drama. Whereas The Thing From Another World is set in an ice-bound research station populated by burly men, A Thousand Tiny Wings takes place in the sweltering heat of Africa and focuses on a mismatched band of women hiding out in a farmhouse from hostile native forces.

In common with The Thing From Another World, there is an alien presence (in addition to the Doctor, of course), though it’s a very different one from the shape-shifting invader of that classic sci-fi movie. Together, the mysterious figure of Abraham (enigmatic mumblings and cries provided by Alex Mallinson) and the unsettling fluttering of the wings in the title (which evoke the terror of Hitchcock’s The Birds) both instil fear and symbolise the relationship between the native Africans and their white oppressors.

I would call this is an intriguing story rather than a gripping one - the most intriguing aspect of all being the relationship that develops between the Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) and Elizabeth Klein (Tracey Childs), a Nazi from an alternate timeline in which Germany won the Second World War.

It’s all too easy to depict fascists as all-purpose baddies with no redeeming features whatsoever (such as De Flores in Silver Nemesis, who gets name-checked several times here). However, Lane, Childs and director Lisa Bowerman ensure that Klein’s arguments for the practical virtues of fascism come across as heartfelt and disturbingly reasonable beliefs. When the Doctor decides to take Klein away with him in the TARDIS, partly to prevent her from threatening his version of history by trying to reinstate her own, and partly to attempt to educate her about his own morality, it could be the beginning of the most unusual and fascinating Doctor / companion dynamic ever.

Klein previously appeared in the 2001 audio drama Colditz. That was almost a decade ago, so you may wish, as I did, to reacquaint yourself with the events of that story before listening to this one. Fortunately, Big Finish is currently offering Colditz at a reduced price for precisely that purpose.

This double-disc release also includes the eleventh mini-episode of The Three Companions. As the story nears its conclusion, Gerry Lenz / Garry Lendler / whatever he’s called this month (Russell Floyd) reveals his latest guise, while John Pickard does a mean impersonation of Stewart Bevan’s Professor Clifford Jones from The Green Death.

Worth winging your way to the CD shop for.


Richard McGinlay

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