The Sixth Doctor’s adventures with Flip and Constance continue in this month’s main range release: Scorched Earth. Written by Chris Chapman, whose other scripts for the Sixth Doctor (and, indeed, his UNIT story Hosts of the Wirrn) I’ve found to be absolutely outstanding, this story is undeniably the release I’ve been looking forward to most this month… and I’m happy to report that it doesn’t disappoint!
Scorched Earth sees the TARDIS land in a French village shortly after its liberation from German control by the Allies. As the Doctor and his companions explore, they discover that one of the townsfolk, Clementine, has been accused of collaborating with the Nazis and, as such, is to be punished by her fellow villagers. Meanwhile, there have been sightings of a creature made of living fire that seems hell-bent on destroying the Germans and anyone associated with them.
This is a great showcase for Flip (Lisa Greenwood) and Constance (Miranda Raison), with the two characters disagreeing on whether Clementine should be punished for her actions or not. Chapman’s script gives voice to both points of view, and this, alongside the fantastic performances given by Greenwood and Raison, means that the listener sympathises with both companions.
The Doctor (Colin Baker) is caught up in the middle of his companions’ dispute; as an omniscient time traveller, he never picks a side, but instead encourages his friends to see things from a different perspective. This is a great bit of characterisation from Chapman, who really pushes the theme of differing perspectives in this script, making for a consistently thought-provoking theme.
The guest cast all put in great performances, with the standouts being Katarina Olsson as the victimised Clementine and Philip DeLancy as the story’s villain, Lucien. The relationship between these two characters is incredibly interesting: unflinchingly dark, but necessary to tell the story. Scorched Earth certainly doesn’t pull any punches, and this is part of what makes it such a powerful script.
The sound design and music in this story are, quite frankly, fantastic. Simon Power ensures that all the action scenes are bursting with musical bombast, while toning it down appropriately for the more emotional moments in the script. Meanwhile, Lee Adams brings to life alien fireballs, crashing war planes and the sounds of an angry French mob with flair. This is undoubtedly a very aurally rich production, which only adds to the success of the story.
Scorched Earth is the best monthly release so far this year. With mature storytelling, fantastic performances from all involved, truly brilliant music and sound design and some wonderful cover art from Tom Newsom, there’s very little in this release that isn’t perfect. Chris Chapman once again proves himself a brilliant writer who I hope we hear from again lots in the future. Flawless and highly recommended.
Scorched Earth is available now on CD or as a download from http://www.bigfinish.com
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