Trouble at t’Mill!

Big Finish Folly, Part 98 – Industrial Evolution, by Eddie Robson

Industrial EvolutionThomas Brewster is just beginning to settle in to his new life in the sleepy industrial mill town of Ackleton. New job, joined the Union, getting attention from the local MP’s daughter… Yep, it’s bound to go horribly wrong. Industrial accidents give way to aliens, sentient machinery, and full-scale death and destruction before you can go t’foot of ‘is stairs. Lucky the Doctor is still keeping a weather eye on Brewster, even if he doesn’t want it. So, you say you want a revolution?

Concluding not only the three-part Thomas Brewster/Evelyn/Doctor arc but also this “season” of Big Finish Folly, and the present run of Evelyn stories, Industrial Evolution certainly needs to not be a damp squib. Fortunately it is far better than one might expect given the ingredients – self-replicating machines, trade unions, a disguised alien Del Trotter, flesh-eating robots, a damsel in distress… surprisingly, it all seems to make sense in the end. Perhaps a large part of this is down to Eddie Robson’s fast-flowing and rather funny dialogue, especially in the lines delivered by Paul Chahidi as the factory foreman Townsend.

Hugh Ross meanwhile has a ball, both menacing and overly protective as local MP Stretton, whose daughter doesn’t quite fall for the charms of Thomas Brewster. And the relationship between the Doctor and Evelyn continues to develop and sparkle – no, not that sort of relationship, but the bickering and bantering really could be that of a married couple. It’s a shame that this marks the end of Maggie Stables’ run in the audios to date, and I can only wish her the best of health.

For all that however, Evelyn does still feature in the future chronology, so this play belongs more to Brewster and his send-off. As remarked on in the interviews that accompany the story, this tale was intended to examine Brewster from the point of view of seeing what he might become. The answer appears to be that he is still – barely just – on the right side of the law, ducking & diving like the best of wide boys. An honest man, he still does things more for his own good than for anybody else’s, which infuriates the Doctor. But there is a scene where Brewster is offered lots of money by Stretton to leave Ackleton (and his daughter) well alone – and Brewster, to his credit, sees the offer exactly for what it is and refuses to play along.

There’s room in the galaxy for a Thomas Brewster spin-off, though it remains to be seen whether anybody would want one. Perhaps we should see how the Charley Pollard series goes first, eh?

Back to a niggle: as usual with fast-paced scripts and heavy action, there’s a few bits of plot falling unseen down the back of the sofa. All the talk of Catalysts and anti-progression Inhibitor machinery started to go over my head in the last third of the script, and it remained unclear as to who was fighting whom against Who (if you see what I mean). While the Catalyst was brought unwittingly to Earth by “Del-Boy” Belfridge, the question of who had brought the Inhibitors to the party never seemed to be answered.

Nevertheless, there’s a good fun couple of hours to be had listening to Doctor Who go to the grim mills of t’North (which will rise again – but that’s my other line of work…).
****

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