Trenchfoot

Big Finish Folly, Part 154 – No Man’s Land, by Martin Day

No Man's LandIt is 1917 and the Doctor, Hex and Ace find themselves in a military hospital in northern France. But the terrifying, relentless brutality of the Great War that wages only a few miles away is the least of their concerns.
The travellers become metaphysical detectives when the Doctor receives orders to investigate a murder. A murder that has yet to be committed…
Who will be the victim? Who will be the murderer? What is the real purpose of the Hate Room? Can the Doctor solve the mystery before the simmering hate and anger at Charnage hospital erupts into a frenzy of violence?

Another straight historical adventure, another journey deep into the human Hearts of Darkness, but not quite as straight an adventure as you might think – there’s some long-term plot devices making cameo appearances in the background, reminding us like incidental themes in Hans Zimmer movie scores that they are yet to be fully resolved.

This time the psychology and the examination of the human psyche is spread across a full platoon of soldiers, the occupants of the Charnage Hospital, but concentrated at the same time on the qualities of violence and hate. The hospital is part of a secret project to try to produce a more effective soldier, a soldier more fully susceptible to battlefield rage. Lt-Colonel Brook (Michael Cochrane) is a nebulous ally at the beginning, as the Doctor feels his way around the situation, but it quickly becomes clear that the Tardis crew are getting in Brook’s way.

Some very unfamiliar things are happening here – Ace setting out to use her position as sole female in the hospital to attempt to get information from the soldiers; Hex so influenced by a single session in the Clockwork Orange-esque Hate Room that he becomes more violent. A sort of Mexican standoff in a ruined church deep in No Man’s Land. An Agatha Christie-esque invitation to investigate a murder that hasn’t happened yet… in fact the murder investigation is the weakest link in the plot. It doesn’t quite work – oh the Tardis might have been attracted to this place by the very fact that Private Taylor has written this letter…? Hmm.

The last few minutes, after all the gunfire and the chasing and the Daily Hate (isn’t there a modern newspaper something like that? Or am I thinking of the Daily Mail?) are where the real answers come out into the open. Yes, here be the spoilers. We’re back to The Forge, sticking their dirty fingers into history again. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some direct connection from one of the soldiers at Charnage to Hex, as the Doctor plainly knows more than he’s letting on. It’s like jazz: don’t listen to the notes that are there, listen instead to the notes that aren’t there…

Solid writing, aside from the iffy murder link, and less weighty tone than The Settling, helps to ameliorate the linkage to The Forge, which is one of my least favourite Big Finish inventions given the bleh-ness of the super vampires that Ol’ Sixey had to deal with.

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