The Home Guard is the first of two Doctor Who Early Adventure stories Big Finish released in November 2019. A specific mix of drama and narration (in the style of BBC soundtrack releases for otherwise missing stories) they can conjure detailed worlds yet provide plenty of entertainment. Enter the second Doctor, Jamie (both voiced by Frazer Hines), Polly (Anneke Wills) and Ben Jackson (Elliot Chapman). The TARDIS team find themselves dealing with World War II but also the Master – a Big Finish incarnation played James Dreyfus. After last month’s Ravenous 4 this might seem too many Masters in too short a time but rest assured this is a very different story.
Home Guard shenanigans
With a World War II setting and the Home Guard, UK listeners will immediately think of Dad’s Army and to some extent the story does make several nods in that direction. There’s a lot more going on as Ben is back in naval uniform while Polly is married to Jamie. What seems a historical story with twists soon moves further into a twilight zone as we learn of technology, computers and mysterious fogs. The Master is clearly up to something with mind control but just what? At times his motives seem almost benign.
It’s all nice and mysterious then it’s time for parade. Who else would be in charge of the home guard but the Doctor?
For the first half the story bubbles along nicely with hints and teases. The Master wants the Doctor to be accused of being an enemy and this allows plenty of action. That is until the actual fighting starts. The village has to not only deal with potential spies and traitors but a full fledged attack from something most unexpected. While the villagers do their best with grenades and the odd piece of ordnance, their forces are slowly ground away. Everything looks bleak.
Meanwhile there’s a sense of a farce as various combinations of the Doctor / Ben / Jamie and Polly do or don’t resist the Master’s mental machinations. There are shootings, escapes and escapades but all with a serious undertone. Simon Guerrier also gives the Master reason for his convoluted contrivances at the point most listeners might be thinking isn’t it simpler to just kill everyone under mind control?
The whole adventure comes together nicely, touching on some wider Doctor Who ideas but never at the expense of entertainment.
The Home Guard is an intriguing and in some ways offbeat story with plenty to enjoy. Elliot Chapman has suggested this may be his farewell outing as Ben Jackson. We can only hope this isn’t the case. He and the rest of the cast are on splendid form in this great tale. Recommended.