‘Scorched Earth’ is the latest adventure for the engaging trio of the Sixth Doctor, Flip and Constance. Set at the end of WWII, it grapples with the transition from wartime to peace and the theme of revenge.
The TARDIS arrives in Lombardy, 1944, to see British troops arriving post-D-Day and hailed as liberators of France. Despite the Doctor’s best instincts, Constance is desperate to know more of her future; she is already aware that the allies prevail but knows none of the finer details.
However, as they soak up the joyful atmosphere, the celebrations turn unpleasant; venting their anger on a ‘horizontal collaborator’, a baying mob savagely cuts off a young woman’s hair. If Flip is outraged at this, she is apoplectic when Constance’s sympathies lay with the perpetrators rather than their victim.
Meanwhile the Doctor is on the trail of mysterious fires, investigating a burnt forest and reports of impossible fires in the sky.
Companions at War
Chris Chapman writes again for this team, following 2017’s terrific high-concept tale ‘The Middle’. This time, though, the science fiction initially takes a back seat in favour of absorbing period detail. In fact, we wonder if this story might have had potential as a pure-historical, given its vivid setting and explosive interpersonal dynamics.
His compelling story takes time to explore the two companion’s reactions and it is fascinating to have them at odds; how often have we seen people from different times and cultures travel together happily in the TARDIS? Here, two usually amiable companions are suddenly worlds apart; Constance wearing her years of war and hardship, while Flip has the luxury of a more comfortable 21st century perspective. We were pleased their rift continued throughout, providing plenty of dramatic moments for both Miranda Raison and Lisa Greenwood, both of whom are excellent.
Despite being stuck in the middle, Colin Baker’s Doctor enjoyed plenty of action and excitement, even taking to the skies for a thrilling denouement. His final act was surprising though and, while a neat solution, for us it sat uncomfortably with the story’s theme of putting revenge aside. That said, it was entirely in keeping with the sort of thing his successor might do.
In a hardworking guest cast, three in dual roles, Katarina Olsson impresses as Clementine, while Phillip DeLancy is superb as the vengeful Lucien.
‘Scorched Earth’ is directed by John Ainsworth and comes with an explosive cover by Tom Newsom. Thought-provoking and full of rich historical detail, this is another sure-fire winner for Ole Sixie.