Fields of Terror

Posted in Audio by - April 30, 2018
Fields of Terror

Released June 2017
SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

With The Companion Chronicles returning to the William Hartnell era for its latest collection of four stories in The First Doctor Volume Two, it’s fitting that ‘Fields of Terror’ by John Pritchard should return to the historical format with a new angle on the events and times as portrayed ‘The Reign of Terror.’ The TARDIS has brought the Doctor back to Revolutionary France, and Steven, Vicki, and he quickly become caught in this devastated land between the soldiers burning everything before them and the monstrous figure following in their wake.

The plot of ‘Fields of Terror’ is relatively straightforward as a group of soldiers that has been ravaging the countryside and murdering anyone thought to have anti-Revolutionary tendencies suddenly finds itself the victim of an unknown force that is picking its members off one by one. Fittingly, the Doctor is much more cautious with his companions here than he was during his initial visit to Paris in this time period, and he quite astutely points out that ruling through terror is intrinsically doomed to fail since those in power will inevitably fall victim to its influences. As Steven and Vicki traverse what to them is ancient history, they learn just how much they can intervene, and this dark portion of the past in which they find themselves plays out as expected as the soldiers cannot continue when confronted with their own terror that wisely remains shrouded in secrecy to allow the true emotion and suspense of the story to breathe and develop without distraction.

‘Fields of Terror’ follows the conventional mould of The Companion Chronicles as Maureen O’Brien deftly voices all three members of this TARDIS crew and the majority of the guest characters while Robert Hands serves as the one guest star to voice the compelling but brutal Lieutenant Lagrange of the Revolutionary army. Understandably, O’Brien hasn’t quite mastered Hartnell’s mannerisms and eccentricities like Peter Purves she is so often paired with in stories has, but her performance as the Doctor grows more confident as the story progresses and contrasts quite nicely to the more innocent and compassionate Vicki whom she still brings to life exceedingly well and believably after so long playing the role. The amount of vocal work as she shifts between characters and narration is substantial for O’Brien, but she acquits herself beautifully and effortlessly carries the story from beginning to end.

Despite the truly chaotic and dangerous setting, this story doesn’t quite reach the emotional heights or complexity of Pritchard’s previous entry in The Companion Chronicles, ‘The Mouthless Dead.’ While part of this may be due to the focus on terror in its many forms as a driving force, it’s also due to the fact that there is little internal exploration of Vicki or any of the main cast offered, a staple of this range since its earliest days given its intimate and often more deliberate format. Witnessing and living through these events would be harrowing for anyone, but showing personal ramifications for the brave Vicki that she could take with her going forward could have truly elevated this engaging story into something much more meaningful and lasting. Still, this look at another dangerous aspect of a time already visited proves to be the perfect showcase for Maureen O’Brien that starts this new set off on a solid- if very traditional- note.

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