The Dalek Invasion of Earth
Legacy of the Daleks
Big Finish Productions
An Earthly Child
|Written by||Marc Platt|
|Starring Paul McGann and Carole Ann Ford|
|Synopsis: Thirty years on from the Daleks' invasion of Earth, the scars still haven't healed. The survivors inhabit a world thrown back two hundred years, a world of crop shortages and civil unrest. A world where the brightest and best of its young people are drawn to the xenophobic Earth United group. A world sliding into a new Dark Age, believes Susan Campbell, widow of one of the heroes of the Occupation. A world in need of alien intervention. A world in need of hope. But as Susan takes drastic action to secure the planet's future, she's oblivious to the fact that her student son, Alex, ensnared by Earth United, is in need of alien intervention too. Or so Alex's great-grandfather thinks.|
A Review by Charles Berman 18/4/14
An Earthly Child, if nothing else, completely avoids one trap that it would have been very easy for it to have fallen into. It is decidedly not an eager-to-please sentimental piece of disposable fan-pablum that does little but wallow in the historicity of the story's headline event -- that being Susan's meeting with the Eighth Doctor-- and deliver a paint-by-numbers plot so that claim to be an actual story on technical merits. Marc Platt, one of the best Doctor Who authors going, was a good choice if one wanted to avoid this very easy pitfall -- one which Big Finish had not been able to avoid completely in its past mountings of "historic meetings" (witness the self-congratulatory but completely dull mounting that the Sixth Doctor's meeting with the Brigadier got in The Spectre of Lanyon Moor).
Instead, Platt wrote a hard-nosed, intelligent and pointed political script. It's a strong, surprising choice, but as a writer Platt plays it to the hilt, starting with events in motion and making valid political points without resorting to the use of a sledgehammer. An Earthly Child, is serious enough to verge onto "humourless" -- if one discounts the plentitude of jokes about the Doctor looking too young to be grandfather or a great-grandfather.
Beyond being good political writing, An Earthly Child is also good science fiction. The world where it takes place is a well-imaged and logical extrapolation of what might happen after the events of The Dalek Invasion of Earth, and the conflict between the Earth United neo-luddite groups and those who want advances is one that makes sense and resonates with current events without being a didacting analogue.
In the end, it's a story about imperialism, and not too heavy-handed either, for which a hat must be tipped to Mr Platt. The aliens are here to make earth an outpost of their empire, yes -- but it's easy to see how Susan and others could appreciate their ostensibly selfless offers of aid, infrastructure and development. That's a dilemma that a lot of countries face in a very real way today against countless first-world corporate empires, and the point is well-made.
In the scene or two where the actions slows and we do get a reunion scene between the Doctor and Susan -- and a meeting between the Doctor and his great-grandson Alex -- the scenes are touching and more affecting for not being overdone. Paul McGann's acting is to its usual fine standard, though it's not the main thing on showcase, as the Doctor first appears having already become a part of the action, and has more intriguing scenes than anyone else.
The real acting showcase is Carole Ann Ford, who demonstrates herself a really fine actress who has grown greatly rather than stagnated since the only other thing I've seen or heard her in -- which is sixties Doctor Who. Her character as she plays it really feels like a grown-up version of the Susan we saw on screen, which must have been a difficult balance to meet. She's really believable as a sincere, passionate political figure and in her scenes with McGann --which is important since these are the elements the play pivots around.
Jake McGann, unfortunately, is not quite the actor that his father is and delivers some stiff line readings, though at least Alex Campbell comes across as a distinct character, which is something. I'm sure recording this was something fun for the two McGanns to do together, at least, and would not begrudge them that.
In all, An Earthly Child is a substantial, well-written political-thriller-style story. And, despite the winking title, it is out to tell its political science-fiction story well before it is out to to be a nostalgic nod at Doctor Who history. That might not make it pure fun, but it does make it well worth listening.