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Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Now THIS Is How You Do A Historical Doctor Who Adventure...


When it was revealed that The Thirteenth Doctor's first season of televised adventures would see the return of 'historical' adventures I was genuinely excited - as ever being reminded of the show's original remit to educate as well as entertain.

Which was one of the reasons I was so underwhelmed by what we were actually given, particularly with Rosa, where I felt the shocking historical truths were undercut by the unnecessary injection of alien interference.

Once you inject sci-fi elements into a "factual" storyline, it becomes a blurred mix of fantasy and reality, with the make-believe always taking precedent.

As part of a recent Big Finish sale, I purchased The Peterloo Massacre, a Fifth Doctor full-cast audio adventure penned by the great Paul Magrs.

Now, this is how you do Doctor Who historical adventures.

The TARDIS crash lands outside Manchester during the Industrial Revolution, and before The Doctor appreciates the exact time of their arrival, his companions - Nyssa and Tegan - are swept up in the events leading up to the working people’s march to St Peter’s Field, in the heart of the city.

The Doctor knows he cannot change history, even though what is about to happen (The Peterloo Massacre) is an horrific scene of carnage, and so, despite his righteous anger, all he can hope to do is keep his friends safe.

Although Magrs, of course, addresses the wider issues of the gross injustices and contrasting viewpoints of the "haves" and "have nots", he also focuses the story in on the families that The Doctor and his companions become involved in.

This gives the drama a relatable human voice.

So, why can't the television show do the same?

The First Doctor used to do this in stories such as The Reign Of Terror (about The French Revolution), Marco Polo, The Gunfighters (about The Gunfight at The O.K. Corral), The Crusade, The Aztecs, and The Romans.

It was my understanding that The Thirteenth Doctor would be a restatement of the show's remit for the 21st Century, and I've sensed many traces of influences akin to the early Doctors' adventures in this season's stories.

Just a pity Chris Chibnall and his team didn't feel confident enough to fully commit to telling historical stories and had to muddy the waters with - often pointless - fantastical elements.

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