Welcome to DoWntime’s not-too-regular column, Assessing Stress. That’s where we assess … stress. Or more accurately, talk and debate about the newest episodes to hit the television screen, the new releases from Big Finish, and all these good things.
And today, Tibère and Scribbles tackle the return of Winston Churchill (and Madame Vastra!) under the Big Finish banner. Blood, sweat & spoilers after the read more tag.
TIBERE: As per all things involving Who’s version of Winston Churchill, I feel like a huge caveat should be place ahead of any kind of thoughts about that boxset – Churchill, as a person and historical figure, is very much questionable, to say the least, and to use him as the frontman for a series of Who adventures is an incredibly weird and misguided idea, especially in a day and age where the brand is trying to provide representation and shelter for marginalized group. It’s not okay – if you want more details, I can only refer you to Jack Graham’s Victory of the Icon essays, which tackle the topic with precision. But, if we are to accept that The Churchill Years are to be a part of our cultural landscape, well, this is as good as it gets – bar the first story, which offers some extremely negative stereotypes as far as race and gender are concern, there has been quite an effort made in order to avoid offense and to present a nuanced, and not especially positive, vision of Churchill. It’s not perfect, but the stories here show a level of care, imagination, and attention to plotting that I did not expect from the range. All in all, it’s a good surprise, and an example of the Big Finish writers successfully doing their best with a fundamentally flawed premise. I wouldn’t blame anyone choosing not to listen to it or buy it, and I’d personally quite like the company to move away from Churchill; but I think it does manage to justify its existence. And that, well, that wasn’t an easy win to score, so I guess I shall offer half-hearted kudos.
SCRIBBLES: As a rule, I listen to every story we cover twice before responding on here. And that’s a good thing. When I first listened through this set, I found myself responding quite bitterly, which, frankly, is something I don’t like to do or be. And I do still have some substantial criticisms about this set, particularly, as my cowriter noted, with the first story. But, and I’m very pleased to say this, a lot of this set works. There are two stories here that I think justify the existence of using Churchill as a focal point in Doctor Who fiction in of themselves, and the set in general lays off hero worship in favor of trying to tell new stories set in and responding to a time period defined by Churchill. As a result, while I have to say I don’t see this as a range with much sustainability, what we get here is a perfectly decent new series set and I feel less anxious about the future use of Churchill in Big Finish stories. And I can’t deny, there is still a fan thrill to be had in these. Eleven and Ten, but especially Nine, get their voices captured well here, and it’s always a joy to hear stories opening with the new series themes. I would not call this the most highly recommended of the new series of audios, but I’m pleased to say that you won’t hate spending a few hours with this for a bit more content with some wonderful Doctors.