Beachhead

Posted in Audio by - December 16, 2018
Beachhead

Released March 2016

Following an engaging first set that successfully introduced the dynamic Time Lord villain the Eleven and promising new companion Helen Sinclair but that by itself didn’t truly set up the titular collection of foes hinted at in the Doom Coalition title, Doom Coalition 2 opens with Nicholas Briggs’s ‘Beachhead’ as the Doctor looks to recover from his recent harrowing ordeal. Landing in the quiet English seaside village of Stegmoor, the Doctor must confront the repercussions of his past actions with the village in turmoil and the entire safety of the planet threatened.

The story itself is almost entirely standalone barring one crucial revelation that seemingly sets the trajectory of this second set in motion in earnest, and although ‘Beachhead’ is a very traditional story in every sense of the word with little risk taken, it nonetheless manages to create a genuine sense of disquiet as mysterious floods destroy this village. Naturally, it’s what the flooding reveals that carries far more importance, and although not quite as much is done with the idea as might be expected, the discovery that the Doctor must now confront decisions he made five lifetimes ago while also renewing his history with innkeeper Phillipa Gregson as the body of an unconscious alien is found is a truly exciting one. Indeed, realizing that an unassuming UNIT mission apparently gone wrong has changed this entire community for a generation is a profound hook, emphasized by Phillipa quicklyholding the Doctor at gunpoint, but this setup work is quickly forgotten as the uncovered alien threat quickly takes centre stage.

Unfortunately, the decision to include the Voord as the alien threat by itself doesn’t add anything impactful to the story, and no revelatory information about the race is afforded to make this a meaningful encounter. The Voord are certainly beings with storytelling potential as ‘The Domain of the Voord’ proved in The Early Adventures, but here they are written as little more than generic placeholder villains who simply want to conquer Earth after their own planet has been destroyed. This is a plot device that has been used countless times over the years, but without giving greater emphasis either to what can make the Voord unique or to the personal tumult the Doctor must be feeling as he is called to atone for his past mistakes this falls flatter than it should without delivering the true emotional drama that’s just under the surface.

Still, the performances and chemistry are uniformly excellent, and it’s nice to see just how comfortably Liv steps into a position of authority with the Doctor out of action while Helen again tries to come to terms with the fact that she finds herself at a different point within loved and close ones’ lives. Likewise, the relationship between Lilly and Matilda is an undoubted and sentimental highlight in the brief time they are together, and Kirsty Besterman and Rebecca Night excellently complement the commanding presence of Julia Hills as Phillipa to whom the Doctor can open up to so easily given his past adventure here. Also featuring the usual strong direction and sound design to bring this seaside mystery to life with the usual Big Finish panache, ‘Beachhead’ is a technically sound and enjoyable story, albeit one that could have taken a slightly more impactful path had the focus stayed on the returning Doctor rather than concentrating on the nostalgia of the Voord without adding much to their continuity.

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