Short Trips - Dark ConvoyBookmark and Share

Monday, 30 November 2015 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
Short Trips - Dark Convoy (Credit: Big Finish)

Cast: Sophie Aldred (Ace/Narrator)

Written By: Mark B Oliver

Directed By: Lisa Bowerman

Producer/Script -Editor: Michael Stevens

Sound Design/Music:Toby Hrycek-Robinson

Cover Art:Mark Plastowens

Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

Released July 2015, Big Finish Productions

 

This latest stop over in the tour of time and space finds the Seventh Doctor and Ace somewhere on what appears to be the North Atlantic with the devastating  Second World War in full force. The duo soon realise they have got abroad HMS Thunder, and have to try and assist a struggling crew as best they can. Later Ace plays her part in trying to see the safe return of certain missing persons who are suffering from some form of after-shock.

The main issue however arises, as to the Web of Time. Can history be altered, and will anyone originally on board have a happy ending?

 

I personally never tire of this wonderful Doctor/companion team. Whilst my no means the best actors the show ever had, their unique chemistry made the pairing unforgettable and helps any spin off material have a figurative 'head start'. Ace has a large role to play here with the Sylvester McCoy Doctor mostly confined to the background. We do still wonder how much of his trademark planning and awareness of events around him are going to play out, and how he decides to act in the closing stages of the story are slightly different than perhaps most would expect. Ace on the other hand provides the emotional heart to the story, and her concern for the fates of gallant Commander Fitzgerald and down-to-earth Jimmy is likely to be matched by any listener who has even a passing interest in the terrible events that took place during the 20th century.

 

With Sophie Aldred as the sole vocal contributor this story hinges on her ability to convey different voices, personas and emotions. And needless to say her Ace comes to full life, almost as if she is playing the role in a proper full cast Big Finish production. Aldred will always be primarily associate with Ace, and commendably that enthusiasm for the character shines as bright as it did when Dragonfire first hit TV screens in the late 1980s.

Her Seventh Doctor voice here is charming, with the Scottish burr that was such a distinctive feature until the Capaldi Doctor became known to viewers.

The play is very concise, and this sees it have a rapid pace and a memorable hook, and also leave heavier, more character-focused work to longer plays. That direction of effort works quite well and the production seems settled within its own confines, i.e. having the small 'setting' of the boat(s) and the immediate sea area. The elegantly efficient exposition also is as good as can be hoped for.

Having a main character to present the story to us, and one we have come to know well through books, audio and comics as much as TV episodes (from 1987 to 1989) is a fine way to get us to connect with unfamiliar supporting players. The downbeat ending also works very well and does seem to fit the mood of a number of the Seventh Doctor stories from his second and third seasons.

 

There are some flaws though. The Doctor more or less takes a cameo role despite his solitary presence on the official cover, and also lacks many memorable lines that we normally expect. The lack of any other female characters in the story, (which is understandable given the maritime context), is a somewhat problematic allocation for the one female voice artist. Some of the more passive or nervous characters are served better by Aldred's feminine voice, whereas the tougher ones just do not feel quite authentic enough.

And were we to really ask for some Doctor Who that pushes the bounds then perhaps this is not the best exhibit. It is set quite early on in their relationship and does not have the edge of the New Adventures book line, or even the BBC books. It simply gives us insight into one of the many conflicts fought in the Atlantic and how much pressure was being felt by these brave men. The very ending though is so beautifully poetic and haunting that much of that 'traditional' leaning is forgivable.

Sound effects and music are as reliable as ever in making the play breathe properly but not so as to impede the flow of the narration. This story ultimately stands up well and will encourage both newcomers and the 'old guard' of fans to try and sample more Short Trips as well as the more epic adventures that feature Ace, her Doctor and various other regular protagonists.