The TARDIS lands in the Irish town of Drogheda during its
siege in 1649. The much-feared English General Oliver Cromwell
is on his way. As Hex recalls the town's fate, events swiftly
turn bloody and the travellers become separated. While the
Doctor has his hands full looking after civilians, Ace and
Hex find out what life was really like in Oliver's army...
Oliver Cromwell is well known for his role in the English
Civil War. However, this historical tale (it's too grim to
be referred to as an "adventure") takes place after that period,
by which time Charles I had been killed and Cromwell was leader
of the Protectorate. Parliament has sent him to Ireland, from
where it is believed Charles' son might launch a bid to retake
the writer, Simon Guerrier, and the performer, Clive Mantle,
seek to explore the man behind the myth. Definitive answers
are impossible to provide, because historical accounts differ
radically, but Guerrier and Mantle raise questions such as:
was Cromwell really the monster of folklore? Thus the time
travellers witness his fearful, tyrannical anger (Mantle?
Mental, more like!) as well as his more caring, spiritual
production is an almost relentlessly gloomy affair, with only
brief moments of relatively light-hearted relief when, for
example, we cut back to the TARDIS interior as Ace (Sophie
Aldred) and Hex (Philip Olivier) look back upon recent events
while attempting to make a pot of tea.
TARDIS scenes are themselves rather contentious - from a Who
fan's point of view - since they make use of sound effects
from the 1996
Ace explains that the crew have been doing a spot of redecorating.
The implication that the TARDIS interior takes on its TV movie
appearance contradicts many other stories: the New Adventures
novels; Gary Russell's novelisation of the TV movie; even
Big Finish's own The Sirens of Time, which used 1980s-style
TARDIS interior sounds. As an almost obsessive fan of continuity
(as producer/director Gary Russell used to be, but evidently
is no longer), I am forced to conclude that this makeover
is a temporary measure and that the vessel reverts to its
white décor at some point prior to the New Adventures.
Besides, since we can only hear, rather than see, the interior,
who's to say that it doesn't look different than it does in
the TV movie?
in all, The Settling is a bleak but thoughtful affair,
though a little wearisome in its repetitive descriptions and
depictions of doom and gloom.
double-disc tale is accompanied by an additional sample CD,
narrated by Russell and featuring excerpts from Big Finish's
Doctor Who spin-off ranges: Dalek Empire, UNIT,
Sarah Jane Smith, Gallifrey, Doctor Who Unbound
and Cyberman. These series are well positioned
to appeal to fans of the BBC's new version of Doctor Who,
featuring as they do actors, characters (UNIT, Sarah and K-9)
and monsters (the Daleks and Cybermen) that have since appeared
on the TV show. Russell is keen to point out that the Daleks
in Dalek Empire are voiced by the same man who provided
their ranting tones in the 2005 TV series and that the current
Doctor, David Tennant, played roles in no fewer than three
of the featured ranges.
the digipack used to present this three-CD set omits the usual
author and production notes (though the author's notes can
be seen on Big Finish's website). Also, the photographs used
to illustrate the pack's interior are not ideally chosen when
you take into account the presence of the plastic trays -
poor Sylvester McCoy's face is completely obscured by one
of the central hubs.
in view of the entire product's strengths, I'm prepared to
settle for its few weaknesses.
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