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Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who
The Shadow Heart


Starring: Sylvester McCoy
Big Finish Productions
RRP: £14.99 (CD), £12.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 78178 021 3
Available 30 November 2012

One kingdom has fallen and another has risen to take its place. The Drashani Empire is no more, and the race known as the Wrath are expanding into new territory. Only the Earth Empire stands in their way. It has been fifty years since the Doctor last visited this sector of space - and one man in particular has been eagerly awaiting his return. As the mistakes of his past come back to haunt him in the worst possible way, with a price on his head and the galaxy’s greatest bounty hunter on his tail, the Doctor is heading for a last reckoning. The pieces are finally coming together... somewhere deep within the Shadow Heart...

Following the grim and gloomy Acheron Pulse, things liven right back up again with The Shadow Heart, the final entry in this relay race of a trilogy. The territorial changes that have taken place in this region of space are fairly straightforward, but writer Jonathan Morris keeps things exciting in a number of ways.

First of all, he introduces lots of engaging and entertaining characters, such as bounty hunter Vienna Salvatori (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s Chase Masterson) and the mercantile crew of the stellar ammonite Hercules - a sort of giant, space-faring snail. I love Hercules. You might wonder how it is possible to fall in love with a beast that is never seen (except on Alex Mallinson’s cover) and has no dialogue, but he is a very palpable presence in the plot, thanks to his whale-like moans and pilot Talbar’s (Eve Karpf) obvious affection for the creature. Big Finish has announced that Vienna is to get her own spin-off series, but personally I’d like to hear more from Hercules and his crew!

There are also plenty of exhilarating space battles and chases - particularly during Part Two - involving Hercules, a gallant Earth starship and the Wrath, taking in four different planets, one for each episode.

The writer also complicates the Seventh Doctor’s (Sylvester McCoy) chronology, in that the Time Lord’s scenes do not take place in exactly the same order in which he experiences them. We are used to this incarnation using time travel to gain an advantage over his enemies, so this angle fits him well - though events sometimes take even him by surprise.

The returning Wrath come over a bit Atraxi in this story. Their threats and even their voices are reminiscent of those giant hovering eyes from The Eleventh Hour, and it’s easy to imagine them demanding that the Doctor “vacate the human residence, or the human residence will be incinerated.”

Though the trilogy does not dwell on the fact, it transpires that in between instalments the Time Lord’s actions (or inaction) have inadvertently led to a lot of death and suffering. Aside from that slight downer, however, The Shadow Heart is a highly satisfying conclusion to this multi-Doctor, multi-generational, space-faring trilogy. It is more than a shadow of its former selves.


Richard McGinlay

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