For the Glory of Urth

Posted in Audio by - May 01, 2021
For the Glory of Urth

Released April 2021

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

Following a small power failure, the TARDIS lands in an alien sewer system to begin Guy Adams’s ‘For the Glory of Urth.’ As the team members reluctantly begin to investigate their surroundings, a distant scream splits them up when Susan and Ian rush to offer aid, their entry point into the barbaric world of Urth that is filled with horrific secrets and from which nobody is ever allowed to leave.

On its surface, ‘For the Glory of Urth’ follows a playbook typical of classic Doctor Who as different portions of the team face their own dangers while uncovering fragments of the greater evil that a society’s leaders represent. However, the unique backdrop of a monastery run by a figure acting as a strange amalgamation of an Abbot and a warlord quickly hints at the novel nature of this world, one that is unafraid to shine a spotlight on its truly grotesque nature. Clive Wood and Amanda Hurwitz may at times be a little over the top in their delivery, but the chilling certainty and dark power behind their words make Daddy Dominus and Mummy Martial effective and memorable characters who capably and steadfastly stand up to the Doctor and his companions even when their actions and thoughts are rightfully questioned. There is a genuine sense of danger for everyone on this world as the leaders’ internal motivations are revealed and assumptions are effectively subverted, and that sheer callousness and disregard for all others is a brilliantly effective element that only further amplifies the restrictive atmosphere that pervades life on Urth.

Of course, Doctor Who and science fiction in general have always been used to explore and hold a mirror to elements of modern society, and ‘For the Glory of Urth’ is all the more effective when looked at through a real-life context. With or without a pandemic that has by necessity closed borders and restricted certain freedoms, thoughts of isolationism from certain governments and powerful figures have become increasingly commonplace. Unfortunately, xenophobia and overtures of cruelty and violence towards other groups to better ensure purity in mindset if not in appearance are also becoming amplified across the globe, and Adams deftly weaves these many points together to posit what the results would be if such actions fueled by hatred were allowed to overrun a society. There is no shortage of parallels to be drawn between Earth and Urth, and the distorted and evil remnants of a world that is so very familiar proves to be one of the most effectively-developed and engrossing alien worlds the First Doctor has visited.

Perhaps it’s unsurprising, then, that the moral fortitude of the Doctor, Ian, Barbara, and Susan is at its best while those leading Urth care only about themselves and purity when even the very definition of human and alien are in question. Diplomacy is all but a ruse, and the ineptness of the self-serving individuals threatens the livelihood of all. Maintaining power no matter the result to this world or others is the only guiding force present, and while this background does highlight the very alien nature of the Doctor so early in his travels, it also proves to be a fascinating impetus for his outlook to change as he grapples with his early intentions to not interfere with any society in which he lands. David Bradley is wonderful as this good-natured but conflicted iteration of the Doctor as he faces such immensely personal evils of misguided individuals and their effects on a general population, and at a time when the modern era of Doctor Who is receiving more and more focus from Big Finish, he proves again just how much brilliant life this earliest era can still offer. Accompanying him, Jamie Glover, Jemma Powell, and Claudia Grant give suitably strong performances that emphasize their characters’ compassion and willingness to take action as they fight for individual freedoms and common decency. Their empathy and morality balance the cold harshness at the heart of this world, and while this story’s focus on the darker aspects of modern society gaining prominence will likely turn some listeners off, ‘For the Glory of Urth’ is a triumph no matter the lens it is viewed through, utilizing a very traditional beginning to introduce and develop something truly unique and fascinating.

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