Doctor Who Audio Review: The Flying Inferno

Scorched Earth is a Doctor Who audio play presented by Big Finish Productions.  Chris Chapman is the writer here with John Ainsworth serving as director.  Colin Baker returns as the Sixth Doctor with Lisa Greenwood and Miranda Raison joining him as Flip Ramon and Constance Clarke, respectively.  The guest cast is comprised of Philip Delancy, Christopher Black, James Boswell, and Katarina Olsson.

The TARDIS materializes in July 1944 in a small French village which has recently been liberated from Nazi occupation as the Second World War is reaching its conclusion.  In the midst of the celebration, they have labeled one of their denizens a traitor, and their rage is feeding an extraterrestrial entity which resembles a large ball of fire.  Another French citizens has also learned how to connect with this creature, and he is not ready to forgive and forget.  Although Flip and Mrs. Clarke have bonded tightly through their previous adventures with the Doctor, the time and place of their latest stop will strain that friendship as their very different backgrounds exposes how much they have yet to learn about each other.

While Flip Jackson is one of a long line of present-day young female companions accompanying the Doctor, Constance Clarke was found in 1940’s serving as a WREN at Bletchley Park during World War II.  She gets a glimpse at the end of the war and discovers that her willingness to forgive the other side doesn’t come so easily either. Flip finds herself sympathizing with a young Frenchwoman who had dared to fall in love with a Nazi soldier who was later killed.  The hatred from her fellow villagers is what ends up feeding the fiery presence that the Doctor must have removed from Earth before even more unimaginable destruction is unleashed upon the human race.

There are some interesting interactions and conflicts at play.  The creation of this alien menace is somewhat unique but not as engaging as I had hoped.  Flip and Mrs. Clarke’s dispute ends up being the more engaging piece to this story.  There is a reluctant alliance with captured Nazi soldiers that occurs that smacks of a certain courage in the writing.  These particular Nazi soldiers do seem to renounce their previous misdeeds, so it isn’t that Chapman offers any real sympathy to their cause.  It did strike me as an interesting move to offer some path to redemption for Nazi characters that is usually not presented in today’s entertainment.

This particular main cast continues to impress with their energy and chemistry.  Colin Baker still continues to revel in his continued involvement with these latest stories.  A little tension between the two women does offer a shake up that does play out as genuine.  Mrs. Clarke finds herself needing to rediscover her sense of forgiveness and humanity, which adds another dimension to her already fascinating persona.  I do wish that more attention was paid to Flip needing to be more understanding of what Mrs. Clarke had faced during her participation in the war effort of her time.

All of the performances were engaging though.  Even if I wasn’t quite as impressed with the alien threat bearing down upon our heroes, there was plenty of other gems to be found in other facets of this story.  It’s probably not a huge spoiler to say that this particular TARDIS crew is not done yet, which doesn’t disappoint me at all.

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