Review: Doctor Who – 122 – The Angel of Scutari

 

The Angel of Scutari

And thus we roll onto another Sylvester McCoy story in the Big Finish line. Oh joy.

 

Actually, if we think back to the last couple (The Magic Mousetrap and Enemy of the Daleks), they’ve not been too bad of late, so maybe it’s not such a terrible thing these days.

In fact, Angel of Scutari is another reasonably good bit of work. A pure historical – albeit one with timey wimey things going on – it plonks the Doctor, Ace and Hex right into the Crimean war, where they meet Florence Nightingale, Kitchener and Leo Tolstoy himself. It’s a bit over-complicated and probably merits a relisten to fully get to grips with it.

But yet again, it’s another good seventh Doctor story. What’s up with that? 

Plot
October 1854: As the British Army charges into catastrophe in the Crimea, the Minister for War sends Miss Florence Nightingale to take charge of the field hospital at Scutari.

But there’s already an angel of mercy working with the sounded at Scutari. A first-rate felow who’s turned up out of the blue. Goes by the name of Schofield; Thomas Hector Schofield…

With the Doctor and Ace lost in the siege of Sebastopol, Hex has rediscovered his calling. But there’s cannon to the left of him, cannon to the right of him – and a deranged spycatcher-in-chief on his case.

The Companion Chronicles: The Three Companions – The Gathernaut
On a planet scheduled for cremation in 35 minutes, the Doctor, Polly, Ben and Jamie meet an unlikely ally.

Is it any good?
The first half is over-complicated and messy. There’s hopping around in time, events happening out of sequence, all in an unfamiliar environment that isn’t desperately clear unless you’re a big Crimean War buff. Which turns out, weirdly enough, to be Ace.

There’s also the typical Doctor Who conceit that everyone bumps into famous people, with Ace meeting Tolstoy and Hex meeting his career-inspiring heroine Florence Nightingale. It has to be said that virtually everything in the play involving Tolstoy is pretty poor, unfortunately. It also turns out that Ace weirdly enough has read Tolstoy. Did you see that coming, because I didn’t.

But these are minor niggles. The story is really a character piece for Hex, as we get to explore his continuing motivations, how he feels about time travel, his feelings for Ace and hers for him, etc, since the story follows on directly from Enemy of the Daleks: the idea here is that Hex feels so disempowered by the Daleks that the Doctor has taken him somewhere where he can be useful.

There are reasonably good performances all round, although Sophie Aldred seems miraculously to be channelling her TV self again, rather than the more mature version of previous releases. McCoy is fine except where he has to be distraught, and Olivier does reasonably well as the never-happy Scouser Hex. The ending’s great as well.

Probably not worth it for the casual purchaser, but interesting all the same.

As for the ‘Three Companions’ episode (all 10 minutes of it), that’ll barely hold your attention, I’m afraid. I almost blacked out during it.

Price
Amazon CD: £11.99
Big Finish download: £12.99
Big Finish CD: £14.99

Cast
Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor)
Sophie Aldred (Ace)
Philip Olivier (Hex)
Hugh Bonneville (Sir Sidney Herbert/Tzar Nicholas I)
Jeany Spark (Florence Nightingale)
John Paul Connolly (William Russell/Russian DungeonGuard)
Alex Lowe (Brigadier-General Bartholomew ‘Barty’ Kitchen)
Sean Brosnan (Sir Hamilton Seymour)
John Albasiny (Lev Tolstoy/Preston)

Writer: Paul Sutton
Director: Ken Bentley