‘Dead Woman Walking’, April’s Short Trip, is a tale for the Seventh Doctor and Ace. Set early on in her travels, the story looks at this Doctor’s developing manipulative streak and asks us to consider how far he might go to achieve his desired ends.
With Ace wounded during one of their missions, she becomes entangled in the fate of a war-torn planet. Now a doomed woman, effectively a living time bomb, what hope can she or the planet have?
Writer Roland Moore creates a fascinating setup with a problem that the Doctor has no simple solution for. There is some body horror too, nothing too grotesque but vividly described!
Smartly, the story does not focus on the conflict itself. In fact, other than learning the names of the two faction leaders, we never discover why they are at odds. It scarcely matters; this is a tale of the road to peace rather than the horrors of war. And at its heart, it focusses on the relationship between the Doctor and Ace. She knows the Doctor can be devious, but just how devious?
Moore pitches the characters perfectly and this feels like a dress rehearsal for some of the dilemmas the Doctor will manoeuvre Ace into facing further down the line. He also provides a neat passing gag which presages this Doctor’s eventual fate.
For her part, Sophie Aldred narrates effortlessly, giving us Ace’s point of view in a story which runs her character through the gamut of emotions; she first comes to terms with her fate, and then finds her place as both the perfect peace broker and a figure of hope.
Topped off by a terrific Mark Plastow cover, this is another entertaining Short Trip and well worth a listen.