Released July 2016
Following the Fifth Doctor’s triumphant encounter with the Weeping Angels, Big Finish’s Classic Doctors, New Monsters Volume One set continues with the Sixth Doctor crossing paths with the Judoon in the eponymous ‘Judoon in Chains.’ Compared to most alien races in Doctor Who, the Judoon are still somewhat of an unknown quantity, clearly a determined force for justice but having only prominently featured once in ‘Smith and Jones.’ Pairing this monosyllabic race dedicated to rules and due process with the boisterous Sixth Doctor is an immensely intriguing concept, and fortunately the story ends up delivering fully on its potential while delving further into the titular race.
Framed within the context of the Judoon Captain Kybo being on trial for desertion unfolds an altogether more intriguing story of individuality and morality. The Sixth Doctor is, of course, no stranger to the courtroom, but fortunately these scenes feature only rather briefly, setting the scene at the beginning and proving monumentally important to the conclusion at the end as the Judoon’s penchant for removing areas from local jurisdiction- in this case a Victorian era courtoom from Earth- brings the Galactic Court into the fold. While Kybo may, indeed, be a deserter, his actions inadvertently lead to the discovery of a sentient psychic race upon a seemingly dead planet, evevntually bringing into question much more serious notions of morality and even genocide.
While this psychic race completely changes the mantra of the Judoon involved going forward, the majority of the story is told via flashback as Captain Kybo’s ship crashes in Victorian England and his communicator is damaged. Unafraid to show a darker side of humanity, the script shows the locals begin to attack him almost instantaneously before the greedy showman Jonathan Jaggers comes to his aid, only to use him as a focal point in his ‘freak show.’ Stories focusing on an individual who differs from the norm of his or her species has been several times before in Doctor Who– Daleks, Cybermen, Zygons, Sontarans, Silurians, and more getting the treatment- and ‘Judoon in Chains’ serves as that story for the Judoon. There is unexpectedly an underlying reason for the differences to begin manifesting themselves, but hearing a Judoon speak so eloquently and reciting poetry is quite an experience to behold. Nicholas Briggs is easy to overlook given the sheer quantity of monsters he has voiced over the years, but due creit must be given to him here as he is somehow able to convey a massive amount of emotion into Kybo’s plight despite the toll that the voice must take on his vocal cords, adding an incredible amount of depth to the character and the changes he finds himself undergoing.
Desertion is not something the Judoon take lightly, and the remainder of Kybo’s platoon do still form an antagonistic presence. Their innate need to follow rules does allow for some humorous moments as the Doctor uses his surroundings to his full advantage, but the script still manages to bring out their menacing presence superbly. While they may need some nudging to reach the correct conclusions, it’s clear that their respect for due process and their desire to reach the proper conclusion dictates all of their actions. While the prospect of putting the Judoon into a Victorian courthouse is an exercise in absurdity and the script certainly does poke fun at them throughout, the script still maintains a certain air of respect for them at the same time, creating an altogether satisfying experience that is another strong entry into this new foray.