Big Finish Folly, Part 162 – A Death in the Family, by Steven Hall
“The future folds into the past. The homeless hero has fallen. Now begins the time of three tales: The Tale of the Herald, The Tale of the Hidden Woman and The Tale of the Final Speaker. When the last tale is told, all the lights shall fail. The world will end.”
21st century London: Nobody No One, the extra-dimensional Word Lord, is again running amok. Only this time, he’s unbeatable, and a terrible tragedy is about to unfold…
Whoah. Did I say that The Word Lord (one of the antagonists from the anthology release 45) was too good a villain for a single story? I may not have done. My mistake. Here he is again, fresh from imprisonment in a dull alphabet, ready to make the Doctor’s life hell. In fact, ready to make the Doctor’s death hell too. And in contrast to the Forge stories thus far, A Death in the Family spreads itself across time and space with a definite ending in mind, though it’s not the ending that anybody is expecting.
There’s a certain amount of handwavium to be countered, particularly in the scenes that “explain” how the Doctor manages to hold back death long enough to disperse his companions across the galaxy in order to resurrect him without telling them how, and in the climactic scenes with Nobody No One. But once you’re past that, there’s a heck of a story with Ace settling down and getting married, creating her own story only to leave it behind with a husband who never will be. There’s also a chance for Hex to rest, relax, and recuperate, and to have a relationship himself. And there’s a very strong, emotionally charged performance from Maggie Stables as Evelyn Smythe, tying all the disparate elements together. Continuity and arc-wise, this is pretty much how you should fit everything bar the kitchen sink into less than two hours of audio drama. The Doctor’s absence for much of the play lets his companions stretch, breathe, and take part in the drama. In the final scenes with Evelyn, it’s not all about the Doctor either, and you can feel his anguish in what he doesn’t say.
Easily one of the best Seventh Doctor stories since LIVE 34, in this chronology.