Audio Review: Doctor Who Main Range 234 – Warlock’s Cross

After concluding his recent trilogy with Ace and Mel, the Seventh Doctor returns, travelling solo to round off another trilogy: the tragic tale of former UNIT medic Daniel Hopkins (Blake Harrison).

Filling in a tantalising gap in Doctor Who history, April’s The Helliax Rift and July’s Hour Of The Cybermen have charted the Doctor’s brushes with his human military allies though the missing years of the 1980s and 90s, where UNIT was either not featured or the programme was off the air.

As well as the disgraced Hopkins, Warlock’s Cross picks up on the tale of fan favourite Elizabeth Klein (Tracey Childs), once a Nazi scientist in an alternate timeline, but in this reality UNIT’s scientific advisor. This story begins with her conspiring to betray her employers and expose their secrets to a group of conspiracy theorists called “Open Skies” and among their number is Linda Maxwell (Genevieve Gaunt), a former UNIT Corporal with an axe to grind.

Warlock’s Cross connects intelligently back to both of the previous tales, with UNIT having assumed command of the lab from The Helliax Rift and the events of the abortive Cyber-invasion casting a long shadow over the organisation. Now run by pen-pushers whom he despises, Colonel McKenna (best known as ‘Allo ‘Allo’s Herr Flick) is a very different sort of CO; brittle, frustrated and a little bloodthirsty, he is far from being an inspirational leader and we loved his dismissive retort to the Doctor’s name-drop of Brigadier Bambera.

Steve Lyons’ story is a complex one with various parties pursuing having their own agendas, from McKenna, to Hopkins and Klein herself. All are drawn back to Warlock’s Cross, the site of a UNIT investigation whose events have an insidious impact on the present day. With clever twists and turns, this is an absorbing tale of loyalty and betrayal which ends up taking an unexpected path and does not offer any trite conclusions or heroic redemptions.

While Sylvester McCoy’s Seventh Doctor may have a reputation as a master manipulator, it was great to see him on the back foot here with a tale that strikes a melancholy air and does not offer any easy answers.

In what we imagine will be markedly different tones again, November promises another outing for McCoy, reteamed with his prose companions Roz Forrester and Chris Cwej for The Seventh Doctor New Adventures Volume 1, and December brings Muse Of Fire which will reunite him with the redoubtable Iris Wildthyme!