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Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who
The Angel of Scutari


Starring: Sylvester McCoy
Big Finish Productions
RRP: £14.99 (CD), £12.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 84435 410 8
Available 30 June 2009

October 1854. As the British Army charges into catastrophe in the Crimea, the Minister for War sends Miss Florence Nightingale to take charge of the field hospital at Scutari. But there’s already an angel of mercy working with the wounded at Scutari, a first-rate fellow who’s turned up out of the blue. He goes by the name of Schofield, Thomas Hector Schofield... With the Doctor and Ace lost in the siege of Sebastopol, Hex has rediscovered his calling. But there’s cannon to the left of him, cannon to the right of him - and a deranged spycatcher-in-chief on his case...

As you might have guessed from the presence of Florence Nightingale (who is played here with a suitably hard-nosed attitude by Jeany Spark), The Angel of Scutari is a historical story. It also features Tolstoy (John Albasiny), Tzar Nicholas I (Hugh Bonneville) and William Russell (the journalist that is, played by John Paul Connolly, rather than the 1960s cast member).

However, this is not your usual Doctor Who historical. It adheres to the traditions of this type of story, the only sci-fi elements being the time machine and the travellers themselves, but writer Paul Sutton mixes up the chronology, separating the companions in time, and he does some nifty things with the TARDIS. Though potentially confusing, the multiple timeline approach actually emphasises the historical nature of the narrative, driving home the fact that the characters are in the past. When Hex (Philip Olivier) hears about the unfortunate fates of the Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) and Ace (Sophie Aldred) as reported fact, having occurred some time ago, it seems that there can be no escape from these events.

Though set in the 19th century, The Angel of Scutari touches upon subjects that are topical today. Several characters bemoan the pointlessness of the Crimean War, the question of “why are our troops out here?” echoing current sentiments about British forces in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, Hex’s disgust at shoddy (well, non-existent back then) hospital hygiene remains pertinent.

Thomas Hector Schofield has gone through something of a journey during this three-story “season” of Seventh Doctor adventures, and at its conclusion there is very much a sense of journey’s end. Despite the fact that the season is now finished, you’ll find yourself wondering what will happen next.

Disc 1 of this two-CD release ends with the usual behind-the-scenes interviews, while Disc 2 also features the third mini-episode of The Three Companions, which is proceeding apace. It is still Polly’s (Anneke Wills) story, but Thomas Brewster (John Pickard) is involved as well. Great music too.

Be an angel and nip out to the bookshop...


Richard McGinlay

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