The Churchill Years: Volume 01 by Phil Mulryne, Alan Barnes, Justin Richards and Ken Bentley (CD fiction review).

May 1, 2018 | By | Reply More

When Winston Churchill made his appearance in ‘Victory Of The Daleks ‘in 2010 as an ally to the Doctor, nobody but Big Finish might have imagined him taking a starring role in his own adventures. Big Finish have done this before with the excellent ‘Jago And Litefoot’ stories and it pushes their creative output to new levels.

The Oncoming Storm by Phil Mulryne

It’s 1939 and there are some odd looking soldiers on the streets of London. One of them seems to want to speak with young Hetty Warner (Emily Atack), Churchill’s secretary. Saved by a mysterious stranger in a battered leather jacket, Hetty realises she must warn Churchill who believes a strange stone found in the River Thames may be a weapon to end the war.

Hounded by Alan Barnes

Churchill (Ian McNeice) is being chased by the black dog but this is no bleak mood, it might be a hound from hell. His secretary, Hetty Warner, is worried Churchill is losing it and attempts to meet the Doctor by writing him a letter. M15 are extremely interested in this turn of events and everything goes a bit pear-shaped.

Living History by Justin Richards

Churchill is lucky enough to go out for a history day trip. He’s been preparing his history of the English peoples and he doesn’t have Google. The Doctor’s temporary companion is Kazran Sardick and the pair are keen to visit early Britain where Julius Caesar (Alistair Petrie) might just pop up. Learning and experimenting with strategy with Caesar might be fun and games but the Britons are in thrall to the Bronze God. Sardick finds the leader of the Britons has some murky secrets.

The Chartwell Metamorphosis by Ken Bentley

In his twilight years, Churchill has taken up breeding butterflies. His nurse, Lily Arwell (Holly Earl), is anxious he doesn’t catch cold. She has other concerns and there is something suspicious going on in the hothouses. The Doctor is pushing her to play detective in his absence and she’s keen to learn about the new species Churchill is developing.

The synopsis of episodes shows the diversity of imagination and creativity behind this new series. The Doctor is mostly a shadowy character but heavily influences events and our expectations. Each episode uniquely uses our perception of Winston Churchill as the hero of the war and identifies his qualities and failings. The actors give this credence and the individual authors of each play offer drama and some thoughtful observations on Churchill and the atmosphere.

Behind the Scenes

Always good to have a bit of background to the drama and these extras are a fascinating insight into the process of creating audio drama.

This has proved to be a great idea with the second volume released already. Ian McNeice is a superb Winston Churchill obviously relishing the role. As usual, the supporting actors are well-chosen. Hetty Warner is played by Emily Atack and Julius Caesar is brought to life by Alistair Petrie. Some actors are more well known like Petrie and Carolyn Seymour, who plays the housekeeper Danvers in part 4 but all contributed and there could be some rising stars in there.

Emily Atack is the plucky secretary who pushes the drama along in the first two episodes. Obviously, the Doctor is mostly absent or narrated by Churchill but it works really well and all the episodes have interesting peculiarities which reference not only Doctor stories but other Science Fiction. The war time settings of the first two bring to mind the original episode with Matt Smith and the final two reflect the amount of research done around his later life at Chartwell and hopefully will inspire listeners to seek out the ‘locations’.

A very worthy effort from a company that strives to continually comes up with new ideas for the ‘Doctor Who’ franchise. Working around not always being able to get a Doctor they do try to keep actors in work!

Sue Davies

April 2018

(pub: Big Finish, 2016. 5 CDs 4 stories 300 minute story. Price: CD: £35.00 (UK), Download: £30.00 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-78178-945-2)

cast: Ian McNeice, Danny Horn, Holly Earl, Emily Atack, Michael Gould, Derek Riddell, Phil Mulryne, Jo Stone-Fewings, Amerjit Deu, Stewart Scudamore, Alistair Petrie, Laura Rogers, Carolyn Seymour, John Banks and Nicholas Briggs.

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Category: Doctor Who, Music/Audio

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