Released December 2010
‘The Dalek Invasion of Earth’ marked the first departure of a companion from the TARDIS as the Doctor intentionally left behind his granddaughter Susan so that she might know stability and set roots with David Campbell in the aftermath of the Daleks’ conquest of Earth and eventual defeat. Yet as famous as the Doctor’s speech proclaiming that some day he would come back is, the TARDIS has yet to ever allow the reunion of family members on screen. While this long-awaited meeting was attempted with rather tepid reviews in the BBC Eighth Doctor novel range, Big Finish and stalwart writer Marc Platt now offer their own version of an event some forty-five years in the making.
Even without the Doctor’s promise of returning, the notion of revisiting Susan thirty years following the Dalek invasion is a fascinating one, finally allowing both the Doctor and the audience to determine if he made the proper decision in leaving her behind and if she managed to make a name for herself in the intensified time of rebuilding. While she and her now-deceased husband certainly did play a vital role, the Earth is once more regressing, and Susan boldly takes it upon herself to covertly contact an alien race to plead for help. Wisely, Platt quite overtly includes Susan’s ever-present naivety even as she holds the ability to sway public opinion due to her fame, inadvertently exposing the Earth to another potential alien takeover. This internal foible pairs nicely with the intrinsic conflict of the story as a deep political divide predicated upon the desire to reach out to or to completely eradicate any alien presence repeatedly rears its head.
‘An Earthly Child,’ without question, is the most significant of the Big Finish Bonus Releases, and it’s unfortunate that the briefer running time afforded these releases could not be extended to more fully flesh out this monumental story. As it is, the anticipated reunion rightly takes centre stage, and the exuberant Carole Ann Ford and more understated Paul McGann play off each other wonderfully, easily suggesting that these two truly are related and once spent so much time traveling together. The script also does a decent job in introducing Susan’s son, Alex, who finds himself torn between loyalty to his mother and desire to join the nationalist cause. Of course, the Doctor has never firmly understood traditional family roles and finds himself somewhat uncertain as to how to proceed while caring for both Susan and Alex, but there are a wealth of potential storylines featuring Alex hinted at here now that his great grandfather has entered his life and filled in some of the mystery regarding his mother’s past. However, with so much family and political drama, the inevitable portion of the story that does not have enough time to develop ends up being the resolution, and the alien menace is handily defeated in just a few moments, which unfortunately does end up detracting from the overall effectiveness of this threat and the conflict it creates.
The direction and sound design is top-notch as always, and this is the first Bonus Release that truly treads into must-listen territory due to its potential importance for the Eighth Doctor moving forward. There is certainly enough content here to create a four-part adventure where every nuance and angle is thoroughly explored, but the one-hour running time is still enough to craft and engaging and emotionally-charged story that mostly delivers on its strong premise.