Marc Platt’s Doctor Who story The Behemoth, is the first in a set of three audio releases for Colin Baker’s sixth Doctor and his two Big Finish companions, Flip (Lisa Greenwood) and Constance Clark (Miranda Raison). For a change it’s a pure historical tale, set in 1756 Bath. The Doctor is setting tongues wagging, but not as much as the mysterious Lady Clara from Amsterdam.
In what starts as a light-weight tale of balls and society life, dark ingredients slowly emerge as the dark truth underpinning much of the business success of the protagonists is explored.
Set some 77 years before the abolition of slavery in the UK, this is a tale of slavery and the abuses human beings were happy to inflict on others. It would have been easy to make this a charged, political tale and even draw analogies with much still happening in today’s world. Instead it allows events of the time to present themselves and cause consternation and distress to the Doctor’s companions.
While not trivialising slavery by any means, it also explores the position of women in society and Flip is central to the telling of this strand of the tale. At times it makes uncomfortable listening, and even knowing there should be a happy ending doesn’t dilute the impact.
There’s also the mystery of Lady Clara, but that’s another thing indeed, and (if you listen to the extras) entirely historically accurate as well.
Jamie Anderson directed and the cast all bring the required definition to their roles, and eighteenth-century England comes through the headphones in all its detail, both good and grim.
If there is a criticism, it’s the way the first part of the story takes so much time enjoying the setting and playing with the Doctor as a figure of entertainment. Perhaps in balance it’s no bad thing with the events of the later parts of this rather gripping historical.