Saturday afternoons in the 1980’s, remember them? If it wasn’t World of Sport or Grandstand then it was Open University on BBC2 followed by a classic war film. The Cruel Sea seemed to be on almost every Saturday (on a related note, there was ONE weekend in 1984 when Operation Crossbow was on the BBC on a Friday and ITV on a Sunday. Definitely!). So World War two films were as much part of growing up for me as Doctor Who (we only had three channels…) and this months Short Trips release is a great homage to those films – especially the naval ones.
Read by Sophie Aldred this short trip is a rarity for the Seventh Doctor, it is a pure historical. The TARDIS materialises on board the Submarine HMS Thunder, it is on a rescue mission to save another allied sub, but is caught in a game of Cat and Mouse with a German U-Boat. The Doctor helps with the radar whilst Ace befriends some of the crew and volunteers for a rescue mission to collect survivors. Wow, another cracker from Big Finish, this, and massive kudos to writer Mark B. Oliver, director Lisa Bowerman, and Sophie Aldred for performing the play.
In my head I saw it as a grainy black and white Saturday afternoon film and was transported back to my teenage years watching The Cruel Sea with my Grandfather. This release gets it just right, small scale, not a wasted line, yet so much happens and you really do care for the characters, you see them through Ace’s eyes, and even though they are all performed by Sophie, she instills them with a sense of reality, camaraderie and honour which typifies our servicemen in World War 2. The end is shocking, but very very realistic – not all war stories have happy endings and even the shortest amount of time can see people forming bonds in adversity.
July has been a magnificent month for Big Finish and this release continues the level of excellence.
Overall, a dark portrayal of a dark time for the world but the light of bravery and defiance in the face of adversity is wonderful, another 10/10.
Written by Ed Watkinson
Materialising aboard the corvette HMS Thunder during the Second World War, the Doctor and Ace join Commander Fitzgerald and his crew as they track an allied submarine in trouble.
While the Doctor advises the Captain on navigational matters, Ace joins in a daring mission to rescue sailors in the water. With German planes overhead, no-one’s survival is guaranteed…
Sophie Aldred (Narrator)
Written By: Mark B Oliver
Directed By: Lisa Bowerman
Producer Michael Stevens
Script Editor Michael Stevens
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs