The Churchill Years - Volume Two (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Sunday, 25 February 2018 - Reviewed by Matt Tiley
The Churchill Years - Volume 2 (Credit: Big Finish)

Cast

Ian McNeice (Winston Churchill), Neve McIntosh (Madame Vastra), Iain Batchelor(Young Winston), Melody Grove (Carmen / Housekeeper), Owen Aaronovitch (Luis Ortega), Leighton Pugh (Reggie / Jorge / Clerk), Gyuri Sarossy (Lt Fleming), Bethan Walker (Bragnar), James Joyce (Connolly), Ken Bradshaw (Colonel Fischer), Emily Woodward (Louisa), Hywel Morgan (Von Moltke), Roberta Taylor (Maid), Mark Elstob (John Logie Baird / Kaiser Wilhem III), Nicholas Asbury (Visguard / Captain Morgan / Special Branch Officer), Alisdair Simpson (Sidney Wheeler / Field Marshal Brooke), Susan Tracy (Diane Wheeler / Miss Cunningham), Simon Chandler (Corporal Arthur Dimes). Other parts played by members of the cast.

 

Producer David Richardson, Script Editor Matt Fitton
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

Directed By: Ken Bentley

 

Buy The Churchill Years - Volume Two from Amazon now

Young Winston by Paul Morris
London, 1899. After spending time in warzones abroad, Winston Churchill considers a Parliamentary career. But a memento from his visit to Cuba, four years earlier, returns to haunt him. Across the city, the Great Detective has a mysterious caller, all the way from Havana. As ruthless mercenaries wield alien powers, young Winston and Madame Vastra learn they have a mutual friend - an eccentric young man, sporting a bowtie…
We join Winston at the tender age of 21, in Cuba where he has his first brush with death. The main drive of the story centres around a seemingly innocuous cigar cutter , that has a pearl embedded in the handle. It was passed to Churchill during his visit to Cuba – but as the story unfolds, it seems that a lot of rather dodgy characters are looking to get their hands on the cigar cutter. Madam Vastra gets caught up in the proceedings (there is a wonderful nod to those other famous London sleuths of the era, Sherlock Holmes and Jago and Litefoot), and before we know it the eleventh Doctor is also onboard, both on a mission to save our future Prime Minister.
This story has  three narrators – Old Winston (Ian McNeice), Young Winston (Iain Batchelor) and Madame Vastra (Neve McIntosh). I believe that it is because of this, that the story comes across as nicely dynamic. Iain Batchelor compliments Ian McNeice’s older Churchill perfectly, and Neve McIntosh confidently takes over the story telling from Vastra and the Doctor’s point of view.
Young Winston is a very enjoyable romp that is both fast paced and very lively. Although there is plenty of gravity to proceedings, there is also a fair amount of humour (the idea of young Churchill clumsily flirting is quite an amusing one). All of the cast are brilliant, enough so to make me wonder if Big Finish might be planning a Young Winston series for some point in the future. Although, from the closing moments of this story, I’d say that a Big Finish Vastra/ Paternoster spin off is an absolute dead cert.
 
Human Conflict by Iain McLaughlin
1941. The Prime Minister has much on his mind as London reels from the Blitz. When a daring mission to discover Nazi secrets bears unexpected results, Churchill heads north to retrieve technology that could win the war. But an old ally is set against his intent. Weary from his own people’s conflict, the Doctor knows that some weapons should never enter the field of human conflict.
Upon discovering that the German’s are on the brink of developing a weapon that can make a mountain disappear, our Prime Minister despatches a team of specialists to Denmark to investigate. There they discover an unassuming woman who might be a lot more than she seems. As the story unfolds an alien arms deal is uncovered, who is keen to escalate the war into something far more deadly. All the while, Winston has to put up with a disapproving ninth Doctor, who of course, seems to know exactly whats going on.
Human Conflict is a great morality tale that explains that sometimes just because we can do something – it doesn’t mean that we should. The cast are all great, with a special mention to Bethan Walker, who plays the arms dealer who has absolutely no morals. My only gripes regarding this story are Ian McNeice's take on the ninth Doctor, his northern accent isn’t quite right. Also that i found the appearance of the Doctor quite frustrating as he rather annoyingly kept flitting in and out of proceedings.
 
I Was Churchill's Double by Alan Barnes
Alexandra Palace, 1942. Strange television signals show a paranoid Churchill urging on the resistance in German-occupied Britain. A man in a battered leather jacket makes a guest appearance. The broadcasts come from another world, one where the country is now part of the Kaiser’s Empire. Of course, the Doctor is involved, and while Churchill claims to understand the notion of ‘alternative histories’, he never expected to be part of one.
So, Winston Churchill gets to grips with other dimensions….of which he does a very good job. Suddenly zapped into another dimension by an alien mirror he finds himself in the company of the ninth Doctor and Louisa (played by Emily Woodward). In this new world the Germans won the Great War, Winston, the Doctor and Louise are fugitives, trying to avoid the might of the Kaiser’s Empire, whilst trying to get to the TARDIS.
I was Churchill's Double has some lovely nods to the history of Doctor Who in this story. The use of ‘howl-around’ as a hypnotic tool is a great one. Roberta Tovey (Susan from the Dr Who films of the 1960s) playing the sinister maid is another. The story is in some ways quite reminiscent of The Idiot’s Lantern, especially as at one point  we find the villain of the piece staring out of a television, also that a large portion of the action takes place in Alexandri Palace. There is also the mention of the Time War. 
The story though is a bit of a mess, and the characterisation of the ninth Doctor is, at times too…..slapstick. It’s all still enjoyable, although it could just have done with being just a bit tidier.
 
Churchill Victorious by Robert Khan & Tom Salinsky
VE Day, 1945. The war is over. The PM has seen the crowds and made his speech. Now he wishes to soak up the atmosphere, moving incognito among his fellow countrymen. But an alien interloper lurks in a backstreet tavern, and ‘William Churchyard’ must lead a few plucky Londoners into one more fight. The Doctor is in trouble, and at the time of his greatest victory, Churchill also faces his greatest danger...
Winston Churchill is going incognito. On V.E. Day. In central London. His idea of a disguise being a dodgy hat and a ropey fake moustache. Of course it will work! The war is over and finding himself at a loose end, Winston becomes determined to investigate some strange power cuts that are blighting the capital. Passing a police box (Could it be? No…..), he meets some locals, and together they stumble upon an intergalactic bounty hunter, who is holding someone prisoner in a very high tech cage – I wonder who that prisoner could be?
The very image of Churchill trying to pass himself off as a member of the public is a fantastic idea, and of course it is something that he fails at miserably. Which makes Churchill Victorious a perfectly fantastic romp to close this box set, and is easily the most enjoyable story of this quartet. Robert Khan and Tom Salinsky have great fun with pushing the boundaries of the main character. Giving a knowing wink to the audience when it is discovered that he knows a little more about all things alien than he probably should. The banter between Churchill and Visguard (the bounty hunter, here voiced with megalomaniacal skills by Nicholas Asbury)is fantastically written and played. The guest Doctor here is the tenth, and thankfully both the writers and McNiece capture his essence perfectly.
 
Having really enjoyed Volume One of the Churchill Years, I was concerned that this new set wouldn't quite come up to scratch - but fear not, they are every bit as enjoyable and expands the character of Winston Churchill even further.