Synopsis Ford's Theatre, Washington. Friday, 14th April, 1865. The assassination of Abraham Lincoln.
The place, the date and the event which made history. Or did it? Someone has been tampering with time, muddying the waters of history for his own purposes. Time itself is out of joint and the chief culprit is the enigmatic Doctor Knox.
Somehow the Doctor and Evelyn must put history back on track before the future dissolves into chaos. But Knox, it turns out, may be the least of their worries...
Written By: Robert Ross Directed By: Barnaby Edwards
CAST Colin Baker (The Doctor), Maggie Stables (Dr Evelyn Smythe), Leslie Phillips (Dr Robert Knox), Lysette Anthony (Clara Harris), Eric Loren (John Parker), Madeleine Potter (Lizzie Williams), Alan Marriott (Henry Clay Ford), Paul Dubois (John Wilkes Booth), Mikey O'Connor (Thomas Eckert)
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Sadly, another Sixth Doctor adventure that isn't that great. The frustrating thing here is that the premise is actually a good one - 'What If: Abraham Lincoln had survived his assassination?' It could easily have been a decent historical adventure with the implications of changing history considered. It could also have been a gritty tale looking at the politics and social attitudes in post-Civil War USA. Certainly, for (and I apologise for a generalisation here) a typically British Doctor Who audience, would have made an interesting period to look at. It could have been something in the vain of the early-Hartnell historical stories.
We don't get any of this. Whilst Leslie Phillips is a joy to listen to (a voice suited for radio!) and the scenes with him, Baker and Stables are sparkly and spiky - this is not enough to drive the plot. In fact, there isn't really any plot. Knox never really makes it clear why Abraham Lincoln's assassination should be the event to give the most misery to the creatures he is working with. Surely, it could have been something from the Cold War (say the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1961, the outbreak of WWII or the Holocaust?) There needed to be more development of why, in the author's view (and, by implication, Knox's) that is so vital about Lincoln that preventing his assassination in 1865 would cause such chaos.
Knox himself also comes across as very cliched in this. It is more pantomime villain than anything else. He needs a backstory - why did he steal a TARDIS in the first place? Is he a Time Lord? How is he able to make his escape so easily? It just seems a bit of a mess and doesn't hang together well. Similarly, the Doctor's solution to the problem is very much a deus ex machina type ending (which even Evelyn points out). The other supporting cast are rather bland and are more stock-characters than anything else. Parker's hatred of Lincoln wasn't really convincing and needed more detail.
As ever, Baker and Stables make this bearable and their sparring with Phillips is fun. That's about it. I am glad that Big Finish have not tempted to continue with Knox/Doyle in subsequent adventures.
'Well now I know you're mad. I just wanted to make sure."
Post by davygallagher on May 13, 2018 16:12:13 GMT
To have the great Leslie Phillips in two stories with one of the best Doc-Companion combos ever and two fascinating periods of history to play wih and yet to twice deliver such dull stories....massive let down.
Post by dalektimecontroller on May 24, 2018 11:31:18 GMT
Really didn't enjoy this one, and that's coming from someone who actually liked Medicinal Purposes and Pier Pressure.
It came off as slow and bland. Nothing much really happened, and that which did was either poorly explained or not explained at all. The premise could have been interesting, but the execution here is very poor. It would have been nice to find out more about Knox, but Philips is totally wasted as a run-of-the-mill pantomime villain whose scheme is totally nonsensical.
Like all writers, Robert Ross has his own style. Sadly, it doesn't seem to strike a chord with quite a few people. I rather like this story, just as I liked the two before it: I'm glad Ross got to write a kind of trilogy, and I can remember thinking when listening to him saying how he'd like to write for BF again in the extras ... well, maybe.
This isn't the most dynamic story, but it is bolstered by an exceptional cast (I'd love for Lysette Anthony to pop up more often in BF's stuff. She'd have made a tremendous Rani, I think). And surely it isn't easy to completely dislike a story featuring Leslie Phillips. I just wish his TARDIS Cloister Bell would have gone 'ding dong' (you'd have to be very old to appreciate that, I think).
I really like all of Roberts Bif Finish offerings and don’t think they get the true love they deserve. Leslie Philips recurring villain though milder than in Medicinal Purposes is just too good to pass up and add Maggie Stables and Colin you do have a classic tale especially since it involves American History as opposed to the usual British historical.
Well, huh -- this one sure has one heck of a premise, huh?
I think, overall, I enjoyed it, even if there were a lot of little things that annoyed me. In the BTS track, Colin Baker says something to the effect that maybe they're "just fooling themselves" that they're pulling off American accents convincingly. And, well... yeah. Kind of. I also think the voices didn't really fit the characters. Boothe, in particular, came across as more of a theatrical dilettante -- which may be more accurate, I don't know, but it didn't really make him seem very threatening.
And not to rehash my comments from the Doomwood Curse thread, but it was interesting to see here which racial slurs Big Finish felt were acceptable to use (eskimo) and which were not--hence the euphemism "cotton-picker" delivered with such emphatic vitriol in one particularly memorable moment.
But the main thing that got to me was just how badly the story seemed to understand American history. Hrm, I don't want to spend too much time getting into it, but the failures of the post-war reconstruction are kind of a big deal over here, yeah? We're still dealing with the fallout from that today. The notion that Abraham Lincoln surviving to finish out his term would have somehow set back the civil rights movement in this country is laughably absurd. No, it's the opposite. And then, further, the aliens big evil plan is to somehow murder a single woman, and by doing so trigger Lincoln to wage a second civil war? Yeah, that's a total impossibility.
All in all it kind of reminded me of the 13th Doctor's story, Rosa, in that it similarly placed its (white) time-travelers in the position of needing to uphold white supremacy in order to "preserve the timeline." All the while ignoring the actual and fairly well-known historical context. This attempt to morally justify Lincoln's assassination is... profoundly discomforting. And unnecessary. Part of what makes Doctor Who -- or time travel in general -- interesting in the first place is that the "laws of time" (or cause-and-effect) are bigger than morality. The argument for not going back in time and killing Hitler, for example, is not that... Christ, by this story's logic, killing Hitler would, I dunno, increase anti-semitism in the 21st century or something... it's that killing Hitler would wipe out an enormous change of events with vast and unknowable consequences. Maybe it would produce a better timeline, maybe a worse one, but rolling the dice to see is unconscionable, nevermind the impossibility of determining the correct metric on which to base that assessment.
And then there's always the definitive Doctor Who quote from Genesis of the Daleks: "Have I the right?"
Imagine if that story had the Doctor motivated to preserve Davros' creation of the Daleks, because not doing so would result in the production of Super Daleks.
Right, right. I know, I know. You don't have to tell me. I sometimes find myself insufferable, too. At least you can just skim the text, without this nonsense rattling around your skull all day!
Anyway, while these elements of the story were pretty... distracting, I think, is the word I'll use... I do think they're very much accidental. This seems like a story where they (Big Finish) didn't really have a strong idea of where they wanted it. Placing it in 1865 American seems like a last-minute choice. In the BTS track, they mention originally setting it around the assassination of John Lennon, before changing it. And while I don't see how Lennon's death would have made any more sense than Lincoln's w/r/t being somehow "necessary," their next choice was the Kennedy assassination which definitely makes more sense. I don't necessarily think JFK's death necessarily produced the dramatic damage Lincoln's did (RFK's assassination, on the other hand...) but I think it's fair to say that, given the fierce volatility and unpredictability of the Cold War, and the 1960s in general, it would be much easier to argue that JFK's survival could have pretty devastating consequences.
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