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Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who
An Earthly Child


Starring: Paul McGann
Big Finish Productions
RRP: free to Big Finish subscribers
ISBN: 978 1 84435 470 2
Available 31 December 2009

Thirty years on from the Daleks’ invasion of Earth, the scars still haven’t healed. The survivors inhabit a world thrown back two hundred years, a world of crop shortages and civil unrest. A world where the brightest and best of its young people are drawn to the xenophobic Earth United group. A world sliding into a new Dark Age, believes Susan Campbell, widow of one of the heroes of the Occupation. A world in need of alien intervention. A world in need of hope... But as Susan takes drastic action to secure the planet’s future, she’s oblivious to the fact that her student son, Alex, ensnared by Earth United, is in need of alien intervention too - or so Alex’s great-grandfather thinks...

The latest subscribers-only release from Big Finish (issued free to customers whose subscriptions include Plague of the Daleks) is something rather special. An Earthly Child not only sees the return of the Doctor’s granddaughter Susan (Carole Ann Ford) but also introduces a new relative, Susan’s son Alex (Paul McGann’s son Jake).

The Doctor keeps to the sidelines during the opening scenes, allowing the characters of Susan and Jake to establish themselves. Both are disaffected, and both seek to save the world in their own very different ways. However, when the Doctor finally reveals his presence to Susan, their reunion is heartfelt (or should that be heartsfelt?) thanks to writer Marc Platt, McGann Sr and especially Ford, who steps back into her role as though she had never left it.

This adventure is unusually straightforward for Platt, who is known for populating his scripts with bizarre characters, creatures and events. The only aspect of this tale that could be regarded as bizarre is the conceptual nature of the alien Hope (Leslie Ash), who talks like an opinion poll questionnaire, but even so I had no inkling that this was a Platt story until I heard his name in the interviews at the end of the disc. I mean that in a good way!

Similarly, I didn’t recognise the voice of Ash (who also plays Alex’s tutor Marion Fleming) until I came to write this review and saw her name in the cast list, demonstrating her versatility as an actress.

Not for the first time, Big Finish tramples over the Dalek novels of John Peel. This release contradicts his BBC Books novel Legacy of the Daleks, in which David Campbell was still alive and he and Susan were said to have no biological offspring. However, it’s possible that when the Doctor restored Gallifrey following the events of The Gallifrey Chronicles, he inadvertently altered Susan’s circumstances, just as he somehow caused Romana to revert to her second incarnation. Perhaps Susan ended up on Gallifrey after taking the Master’s TARDIS at the end of Legacy of the Daleks, and was on the planet when it was destroyed in The Ancestor Cell...

In the CD extras (which curiously do not feature contributions by Ford), the McGanns discuss the experience of working together and the revelation that the Doctor now has a great-grandson. Surprisingly, McGann Sr was not previously aware that the Doctor even had a granddaughter, and theorises (accurately, I think) that for years production teams and fans were squeamish about the implications of the Doctor having offspring (i.e. that he may have had sex).

How times have changed. In the new series, the Doctor has had a daughter, a mother and a wife or two, so the world is more than ready for An Earthly Child.


Richard McGinlay