The Doctor and Peri are joined by Joe Carnaby (Luke Allen-Gale), Peri’s boyfriend, in this four-story Christmas anthology release. Written by Nev Fountain, Blood on Santa’s Claw (and Other Stories) follows this new TARDIS team as they encounter werewolves, designer babies, an endless Christmas party and even Santa himself! But should it be put on the naughty list or the nice list? Read on to find out!
“Blood on Santa’s Claw”
The anthology opens with Blood on Santa’s Claw, a wacky story that sees the Doctor, Peri and Joe arrive on the planet Naxios. There, they encounter talking animals, characters from Othello and Father Christmas himself… and if that’s not enough to make you want to listen to this story, I don’t know what will!
The guest cast here are on top form, bringing their rather strange roles to life with flair. I particularly enjoyed Dawn Murphy and Roger Parrot‘s performances as Ratty and Toad respectively, as well as Steven Elder‘s turn as a remarkably grumpy Rudolph.
For a story that introduces a new companion, I was surprised at how little Joe featured in Blood On Santa’s Claw. This is okay, given his prominence in the next story, but I still felt a little underwhelmed by his non-presence here.
Overall, Blood on Santa’s Claw is an odd-but-entertaining story that could have gained a few more points by including Joe a little more.
“The Baby Awakes”
The second story in the anthology is The Baby Awakes, which sees Peri and Joe become parents to genetically-modified children. An exploration of eugenics and designer babies, this episode is a particularly strong showing for Nicola Bryant, who has some great emotional scenes throughout.
Nev Fountain paints a scary picture of the future with this story, taking a Black Mirror-esque look at what might happen if humanity gains too much control over its unborn children. This central conceit is absolutely fascinating, and has kept me thinking for days after listening.
All in all, this is a strong story, and I’d have loved for it to have been a little longer so that Fountain’s fantastic ideas could have had a little more room to breathe.
“I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday”
The next story in the anthology takes the Doctor, Peri and Joe to a space station, where the same Christmas party has been going on for three years. As the Doctor investigates strange robots and mysterious Christmas decorations, Peri and Joe begin to think about their future, with some interesting consequences.
Again, this is a great story for Nicola Bryant as Peri. Giving her a boyfriend in Joe has allowed Fountain to put the character in scenarios we wouldn’t usually see her in, and this leads to some really great scenes here.
Unfortunately, the plot of this episode is put somewhat aside to make way for these more character-driven scenes, though there’s a great twist at the end that means the story gets a little more development than you might think…
“Brightly Shone The Moon That Night”
The anthology concludes with Brightly Shone The Moon That Night, which picks up the previous story’s cliffhanger. With the deadly Were-Lords on the loose, the Doctor sets about fixing his mistakes while Peri confronts Joe about a major suspicion she has.
Full of twists and turns, it’s hard to talk about this story spoiler-free, though I can say I liked how it incorporated elements from the previous three parts to build towards a satisfying conclusion.
I found the ending to be a little rushed, and there were a few too many different elements in the mix that made things quite muddled. Overall, though, this is a good ending to the anthology, tying up all the loose ends in a satisfying way.
Overall, while the individual stories might not be the strongest, Blood on Santa’s Claw is, as a sum of its parts, a relatively strong release. With some great character development for Peri, some interesting plots, characters and settings and an intriguing new companion in Luke Allen-Gale‘s Joe, this anthology is a great way to get your Doctor Who fix this Christmas.
Blood on Santa’s Claw (and Other Stories) is available on CD or as a download from http://www.bigfinish.com
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