Click here to return to the main site.

Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who
Protect and Survive


Starring: Sylvester McCoy
Big Finish Productions
RRP: £14.99 (CD), £12.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 84435 943 1
Available 31 July 2012

If an attack with nuclear weapons is expected, you will hear the air attack warning. If you are not at home, but can get there within two minutes, do so. Otherwise, take cover at your place of work. If you are in the open, take cover in the nearest building. If you cannot reach a building, lie flat on the ground and cover your head and your hands.” Arriving in the North of England in the late 1980s, Ace and Hex seek refuge at the home of Albert and Peggy Marsden... in the last few hours before the outbreak of World War III. Meanwhile, the Doctor is missing. Will there be anyone left for him to rescue, when the bombs begin to fall...?


Remember in those 1960s episodes of Doctor Who, when a regular character would simply not appear in certain instalments, because the actor was on holiday? Well, the first episode of this story responds in the same way to the lack of availability of Sylvester McCoy, who was busy filming The Hobbit at the time. The production teams of the 1960s would try various tricks to work around a character’s absence. It might become a plot point, as it does in this tale. The actor in question might film some scenes or tape some dialogue during a different session, to be played in during production (tactics that have also been employed by more recent producers for the new series’ “Doctor-lite” episodes). Both of these methods are put to use in this story: the Doctor’s recorded voice is heard during the final three episodes, and he appears in a substantial flashback sequence in Part Three, though he never directly interacts with his companions Ace (Sophie Aldred) and Hex (Philip Olivier), who wonder what has happened to him.

Jonathan Morris has crafted a tight story that makes maximum use of a minimal cast. It begins like Doctor Who meets When the Wind Blows, with guest stars Ian Hogg and Elizabeth Bennett playing elderly characters whose reactions to the approaching apocalypse are by turns comical and tragic. Peter Egan is unnerving as the voice on the radio, whose announcements are based upon real advice issued by the British government during the late 1970s and early 1980s in its “Protect and Survive” public information films and pamphlet. Some doubling up of the cast is required, especially during the latter half of the play, but the writer ensures that even this has a bearing on the plot.

The narrative’s midpoint reveal is unfortunately comparable to those of the last two Seventh Doctor releases, The Doomsday Quatrain and House of Blue Fire. You might think that this is hardly a relevant criticism, since the Seventh Doctor’s solo stories take place at a different point in his timeline than his adventures with Ace and Hex. Well, I had assumed that too, but the companions’ arrival here, minus the Doctor, in a white TARDIS, establishes a clear connection to the black TARDIS used by the Seventh Doctor in his most recent trilogy of solitary sojourns.

Actually, the ship has been white since The Angel of Scutari, a fact that I had forgotten. Well, it was three years ago. Even the most recent Ace and Hex story, Lurkers at Sunlight’s Edge, was almost two years ago (welcome back, Philip Olivier). Nor was I able to place the two characters who show up at the cliffhanger ending of Protect and Survive - thanks, the internet, for reminding me!

The absence of the Time Lord is actually quite fitting for McCoy’s incarnation, who became more of a sinister background figure during his last couple of seasons on television and in many of the New Adventures books. Indeed, these audio trilogies seem to be reproducing the concurrent separation of the Doctor and his companions via a broken-up TARDIS in the novels Birthright and Iceberg. The Time Lord’s battle against the Old Gods is also very New Adventures.

Proving that less is more, the cast and crew manage to protect the series while the Doctor is occupied elsewhere, and allow it to not just survive, but thrive.


Richard McGinlay

Buy this item online

We compare prices online so you get the cheapest deal
Click on the logo of the desired store below to purchase this item.

£12.74 (
£13.60 (
£12.74 (

All prices correct at time of going to press.