Snow Fun

Big Finish Folly, Part 106c – Shield of the Jotunn, by Ian Edginton

Shield of the JötunnWhen a blast of artron energy brings the Tardis to Earth in 2029AD, the Doctor finds snowstorms and a Viking burial mound in Arizona. But all is most definitely not what it seems here – behind the nano-tech environmental control experiments of Dr Hugo Macht is a piece of technology that, rather than helping to save the world, could end up destroying it. It’s up to Constance Clarke and the Doctor to work out the story of the Shield of the Jotunn – and to hold back an eternal winter if they can…

Ther’s a whole batch of stuff in this play that, mixed together, really shouldn’t work. Yet it does. Ancient Vikings, American scientists, lengthy flashbacks, aliens who want to take over the world… it’s not the strongest combination, and seems to want to pull in several different directions at once, but it has more going for it than you’d first think.

Let’s start with the Americans. The guest cast is almost entirely stars’n’stripes. In some ways this makes the play sound more modern, more new-Who, and the contrast between the guests and the RP of Constance Clarke is another reminder that our new companion is a woman out of her own time. In other ways the accents sound quite old-fashioned – Hugo Macht (played in a very restrained fashion by Michael J Shannon) has more than a touch of the Jimmy Stewarts about him, for example. On the other hand, they’re nowhere near as overplayed as Minuet In Hell, which I will have to revisit at some point in the distant future, alas…

Macht isn’t really the villain he’s initially made out to be, though it takes a little while to make that adjustment. Edginton nearly goes too far the other way, in making him mechanically inept. His counterpart Professor Zetterling is the one who has let the genie out of the bottle – in this case a reservoir of stored energy from a transmat device that turns out to be the Talessh, a race of aliens who came seeking a new sun over a thousand years ago.Getting those rather stubborn genies back into their transmat is a run-of-the-mill affair, though more than competently done, but it’s the messing about with story structure that’s interesting. The use of flashbacks to tell the Viking end of the story could have upset the flow of the play, but actually doesn’t and gives it a lot more depth instead. (And is that director Louise Jameson playing, uncredited, as the old wise woman? I think it is…)

The final face-off between the Doctor’s forces and the Talessh ends with unexpected violence and a reminder that (even though they’re being played here by Americans, like Tony Curtis once did!) the Vikings ploughed their own path – heroic and honourable, perhaps, but most definitely violent. Almost alien, in some ways…

Shield of the Jotunn rounds off a good trilogy for the Sixth Doctor – nothing absolutely jaw-dropping, but still maintaining the very high standard of Monthly Range releases that Big Finish has been producing for the last couple of years. Good stuff, in other words.
****¼

Buy it here

 

And one last note: it takes a very special kind of stupid to hear this story – with the script referencing both global warming (as a reason for Macht and Zetterling’s experiments) and America’s gun psychosis (in passing) – and scream “political propaganda and junk science”. Climate change is not a hoax, and if you can’t see the murderous effect of gun culture on US society you’ve got shit in your eye. I make no apology for this stance – as a moderator for a Big Finish audio fan group I had to smack down a highly charged discussion on the subject after some idiot decided to troll the group with a review of this play using exactly that phrase above. It was tough to stay impartial on that one. Let’s put it this way, if your problem with a work of science fiction is that it is rooted in fact, you have no business in the genre at all. (What I think of a second group, that denies entry to anyone on the autistic spectrum but defends the presence of such a frothing climate change denier and flat-earth fanatic will be left to your imagination…)

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