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This week’s Retro Review takes us back to the era of the Third Doctor in The Last Post by James Goss. I’ve chosen this release as this week’s revisitation because I’m currently marathoning Jon Pertwee‘s TV episodes, and have just finished The Ambassadors of Death, after which this audio story fits in. If anyone’s interested in me publishing my thoughts on Pertwee episodes after I watch them, do let me know! For now, though, on with the review!
The Last Post sees Liz Shaw (brought to life for the final time by the late Caroline John) become involved in a conspiracy that sees prominent members of British society sent letters that predict the exact date and time of their deaths… a conspiracy involving her mother! The story is told as a series of letters and phone calls between Liz and her mum, a bit like a more stripped-back Expiry Dating (Goss’s recent script for the Tenth Doctor and River Song, a review of which can be found here), and it works just as effectively as it did there.
The story is made even more interesting in the way it weaves throughout Liz’s established chronology. The first scene takes place during the events of Spearhead from Space, while the deaths of major characters in Doctor Who and the Silurians and The Ambassadors of Death are retroactively tied into the conspiracy introduced in this story, with the likes of Taltalian, Masters and Dr. Lawrence from those episodes having received the letters Liz is investigating. As I’ve said, I’m currently watching Season 7, and this audio is definitely a brilliant accompaniment to those stories, enriching them without seeming like too much of a retcon.
Though Goss’s plotting is indeed very strong, it’s the compelling relationship he creates between Liz and her mother, Dame Emily, that truly makes this story shine. Emily is played by Rowena Cooper, and is both written and performed exquisitely, both of which are bolstered by the strength of her rapport with Caroline John. The notion that Emily, an English scholar, would be disappointed in Liz for becoming a scientist is hilarious, subverting the usual trope of a scientific parent disapproving of their artistically-minded progeny. It’s such a shame that we never got to hear more of this relationship play out, due to John’s sad passing, because it’s easily the best part of this script.
The sound design here is handled by Richard Fox and Lauren Yason, and is truly sublime. The cliffhanger to the first episode is supremely handled, with their music ramping up the tension and the sound design immersing the listener in what’s unfolding, and their soundscape for the Apocalypse Clock is brilliantly done. Very strong stuff indeed.
A flawless script, two barnstorming central performances and some of the best sound design in recent memory… all of that can only mean one thing. Yes, The Last Post gets a rare perfect score! It’s an exquisite release, with each of the elements coming together to form something very special indeed. No wonder it’s often hailed as the best Companion Chronicle out there! Wholeheartedly recommended.
The Last Post is available on CD or as a download from http://www.bigfinish.com
Join us next week for another Retro Review!