Written by Guy Adams
Directed by Ken Bentley
Cast: Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Bonnie Langford (Mel), Sophie Aldred (Ace), Enzo Squillino Jnr (Juan Romero), Christopher Hatherall (George Newman), Owen Aaronovitch (Antonio Ferrando/Control Unit),
Tom Alexander (Luis/Phillipe)
Big Finish Productions
Released August 2016 (order from Amazon UK)
Picking up from Mel having rejoined the TARDIS crew in last month’s caper ALifeofCrime, the Doctor promises his companions “a taste of the real Spain.” Unfortunately, it doesn’t get much more real than 1938 when the Spanish Civil War was nearing its conclusion. The moral of the story is that history is real and being a part of it often hurts.
This rather neat play features a small cast but evokes the dark atmosphere of the impending victory for Fascist rule in Spain which would endure for nearly forty years after the time of this story. The opening scene featuring an attack on a group of Republican freedom fighters is one of more vividly realistic scenes you are ever likely to hear in a Big Finish audio drama, although perhaps not quite on a par with March’s ThePeterlooMassacre. This is not, however a purely historical tale, although the attempted alien conquest could be seen as symbolising the rise of fascism.
At the heart of this story however are the character interactions as there is some more great scenes between newly reunited companions Bonnie Langford and Sophie Aldred, particularly as Mel continues to realise that Ace has grown up a lot since her days of chucking nitro nine around. Both characters also interact well with the other characters in particular Ace’s relationship with English journalist George Newman, whose occasional chauvinism is nicely underplayed by Christopher Hatherall, and Mel’s relationship with Republican Juan Romero, a very sympathetic portrayal from Enzo Squillino Jr, which really forms the spine of the play.
Overall, this is a story about Mel being reminded of the cost of seeing history first hand and getting involved in real situations. It is to be hoped that next month’s offering, Maker of Demons, won’t see a parting of the ways for this newly reformed TARDIS trio as just like last month, this play has shown that there a lot of untapped potential here for future adventures.