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Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who


Starring: Sylvester McCoy
Publisher: Big Finish Productions
RRP: £14.99 (CD), £12.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 78178 081 7
Release Date: 31 December 2013

Hex is dead... and a distraught Ace holds the Doctor personally responsible. She forces him to take a trip to 21st-century Liverpool to break the news to Hex’s beloved nan, Hilda. To pay tribute to Thomas Hector Schofield, the travellers seek out his family and friends to tell them of his adventures. They are helped by Private Sally Morgan, who has her own peace to find. The Doctor, Ace and Sally must each face the fallout from the loss of their friend – to commemorate him, remember him, and finally to move on. But can they do it together, or will their attempts drive them apart...?

Following the brief return of a younger Ace at an early stage in her relationship with the Doctor, in the previous month’s 1963: The Assassination Games, we jump far forward, to the aftermath of Hex’s demise in Gods and Monsters. By now, though Ace (Sophie Aldred) still cares for the Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) – she says that she loves him – she has lost much of the trust she once had in him. We have seldom, if ever, experienced such anger from her, or seen the arch manipulator that is the Seventh Doctor so at a loss as to what to do to make things right.

In common with a previous Matt Fitton story, Black and White, the opening episode of Afterlife is set almost entirely within the TARDIS, barring a few flashback scenes featuring Hex (Philip Olivier).

Now, I could very well criticise Big Finish for rarely letting its departed characters stay that way. The writers have teased us before with the possibility of Hex’s death, by gravely wounding him at the end of The Angel of Scutari, for example, or by bandying about provocative titles such as A Death in the Family, only for him to then live on. And now these flashbacks... It seems that only Charley Pollard and Rory Williams have died more often! I could also criticise Fitton for not letting the “elder gods” arc – which we all thought had been resolved in Gods and Monsters – lie.

I could... but the fact is that this story is so well told. The opening episode, which is virtually a two-hander, is brave and refreshing, dealing with emotions in a way that Doctor Who rarely does, not even in the new series. The Doctor tries to cheer up his surviving companion by setting the co-ordinates for a new and diverting destination (like the Fifth Doctor does in Time-Flight following the death of Adric), but Ace is having none of it. She insists that, as Hex’s “commanding officer”, the Doctor should deliver the bad news to the young man’s non-nonsense nan (played superbly by Jean Boht – that’s right, her off of Bread). The final three episodes then take the Doctor and Ace, joined by Private Sally Morgan (Amy Pemberton) in a direction that I simply didn’t expect – and which I won’t fully disclose, except to say that the end of Part Two is a corker!

The regulars are all fantastic. There’s some particularly marvellous menace from McCoy towards the end of the story, which some reviewers have compared to The Family of Blood – though I would like to point out that new Who borrowed the “dark Doctor” angle from the McCoy era, rather than the other way around! Meanwhile, Olivier reminds us how Hex used to be in a more innocent time, and also gets to do something different.

The Seventh Doctor / Ace / Hex / Sally strand has provided some real gems of audio drama in recent years, and this release proves that there’s life in the old dog yet.


Richard McGinlay

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