Thursday, August 30, 2012

Big Finish - Protect and Survive

Catching up with a more recent Big Finish release this is last month's main range number 162 - Protect and Survive. Written by Jonathan Morris and directed by Ken Bentley.

The Doctor has vanished and the Tardis lands near a remote Yorkshire cottage where Ace and Hex find themselves in a version of When the Wind Blows. It is the late 1980s, the sky is filled with the bomber planes, an elderly couple are stocking up their fallout shelter, and in the distance could that be the sound of an air-raid siren?

I vividly remember this time period and the fear of nuclear war which seemed like a distinct possibility. Although the infamous Protect and Survive leaflet was never officially released we certainly knew all about it, and I remember watching the public information film of the same name when it was leaked to the BBC. So I was fascinated by this story and how the writer could fit it in to Doctor Who's web of time. We know that Hex comes from a future England where there has been no nuclear war, so how can a nuclear device have fallen on an airbase in Yorkshire in 1989? Yet that is what seems to have happened and Ace and Hex are forced to seek shelter in Albert and Peggy's house.

The first two chapters of this drama are completely gripping and incredibly poignant. It feels quite claustrophobic stuck in that shelter with just the four characters. In fact this is a very stripped down production with a small cast and all set in and around that small cottage in the hills. Inevitably the twists and turns unfold and we found out what is really going on. To be honest I found the explanation slightly less interesting than the set up. However the Doctor does turn up in the fourth part and sets an interesting variant of the Prisoner's Dilemma with a neat twist involving the title of the story. So I take my hat off to the writer here, this is one of best Big Finish scripts I have heard recently.

Great performances particularly by Ian Hogg and Elizabeth Bennett as Albert and Peggy, and Peter Egan does a lovely version of Patrick Allen's original narration for the Protect and Survive films. Apart from the slight dip in the third chapter it is difficult to fault this production. I even spotted little nods to two infamous BBC films Threads and The War Game which we have covered on British Invaders.

4.5 out of 5 all clear sirens. Next up will be an early appearance from the Eighth Doctor.

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