Big Finish: Doctor Who: The Early Adventures - THE HOME GUARD Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

Home Top Ad

Post Top Ad

Big Finish: Doctor Who: The Early Adventures - THE HOME GUARD Review

Matthew Kresal enlists.

The Early Adventures are an interesting beast. They're not quite the same as the full-cast audio dramas of the monthly and other ranges. Yet, they also aren't quite the audiobook style of the various Chronicles ranges. They occupy a middle ground between the two, sometimes producing intriguing results in the process. One of those is Simon Guerrier's The Home Guard, the opening story of the range's sixth season.

Based on the title and even a cursory reading of the blurb, you might assume this was one of those historical tales that Big Finish has done a great job at reviving over the years. Reading it carefully, or even listening to the opening minutes of the story, quickly suggest that things aren't quite what they seem. That sense of things not being quite right, and the unease that comes with it permeates the entire story, even as we learn just what's going on.

Guerrier, who proved his ability to pastiche and expand upon the black and white era of the show with both Companion Chronicles and previous releases in the Early Adventures, once again shows his knack here. The eventual mixture of elements leads to some slightly surreal imagery, the sort of thing that both the Troughton era and Guerrier as a writer have proven particularly adept at presenting. That he manages to do so while having all of the returning characters feeling right, and staying true to the era, is all the more commendable. Indeed, with the use of Anneke Wills' narration and the score by Toby Hrycek-Robinson, one gets the impression of listening as much to one of the missing episode soundtracks as a Big Finish release. Yet this is, like all works, rooted in the here and now and, as the final scene suggests, there's something oddly prescient about this story in the world listeners live in today.

Another part of that equation is down to the cast. Having Frazer Hines and Anneke Wills in the cast offers an air of authenticity, of course, but their performances here are as reliable as you'll find among their Big Finish work. Hines, in particular, gets to do some interesting things with his take on the Second Doctor, channeling the Troughton of stories like Tomb of the Cybermen where he's acting like a mischievous clown on the one hand while also tweaking the situation how he wants it to go on the other. Wills, too, gets plenty to do, thanks to Guerrier's writing giving us a Polly more akin to The Moonbase, channeling a better version of the character than what we often got on screen. Her narration skills remain almost second to none, wonderfully bringing the imagery of the story to life in the process. Add on Elliot Chapman's impeccable take on Ben Jackson, and you can close your eyes and believe it's 1967 all over again.

Backing that trio is a solid supporting cast. Molly Hanson's Jill Sandbrook is an intriguing character, leaving listeners to wonder what's going with her throughout the four episodes (and allowing Hanson to become the third generation of her family to appear in the Whoniverse, as she reveals in the extras). Brian Murphy's Robert Collins is another interesting one, starting with a suggestion of comic relief before heading off into different territory. Last but not least is one of this story's main selling points: James Dreyfus as the Master.

While not quite the first time the Master and Second Doctor have faced each other (David A McIntee's Virgin Missing Adventures entry The Dark Path got their more than twenty years before), it's still something that makes listening to this interesting. Especially given that Dreyfus isn't quite the Master we've come to know, especially from Modern Who. There's an unnerving calm to him, one the stands in stark contrast the sometimes over the top and manic portrayals we've seen later on. Listening to this Master facing off against the Troughton/Hines Doctor is a treat in and of itself, offering up a new angle on the conflict between the pair.

While perhaps overshadowed a bit by the release of the magnificent Daughter of the Gods back to back with it, The Home Guard is very much a welcome addition to the range. On the one hand, it's a compelling pastiche of the early Troughton era, channeling the best of performances and music from it. Elsewhere, it presents an intriguing angle on the era and the Doctor/Master in particular. For those reasons, and more besides, it's a worthy addition to the collection of any fan of the Second Doctor era.

Matthew lives in North Alabama where he's a nerd, doesn't have a southern accent and isn't a Republican. He's a host of both the Big Finish centric Stories From The Vortex podcast and the 20mb Doctor Who Podcast. You can read more of his writing at his blog and at The Terrible Zodin fanzine, amongst other places.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Post Top Ad