SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW
Released December 2016
‘Quicksilver’ begins with the departure of Constance Clarke from the TARDIS and back into her normal life shortly after initally leaving with the Doctor. As with all great Doctor Who drama, though, events take several unexpected turns as the unread post mounts for both the Doctor and Constance and as the past of each comes unabashedly to the forefront.
One of the big underlying mysteries regarding Constance Clarke has been her husband, Henry, as well as his true identity and whereabouts during the war. Through some very brief and touching flashbacks, an idea of the life these two characters shared together is gleaned, and Constance receiving a letter stating that Henry has been lost in action allows Miranda Raison to showcase a more sentimental side to her stringent character. However, as the alien Kinvar’s exchange that threatens to give humans anachronistic technology while potentially leading to an alien war on Earth is revealed, the Doctor soon calls Constance back into action as they travel to post-war Vienna where both characters come upon very familiar faces.
As noted, the arrival of Henry Clarke has been a highly-anticipated event, and Matthew Cottle does a superb job in bringing him to life in rather surprising fashion. It would have been quite easy to write a man of mystery involved in the war effort as a suave super spy in the vein of James Bond, but the man presented here is a well-meaning but ultimately flawed and fragile one. While doing his bit for his country, the heightened emotions from the situations in which he found himself caused him to fall in love with another woman. He tried to do the honourable thing by telling Constance, but he lost his nerve when she was not at home during her surreptitious travels with the Doctor, fabricating the story of his death to allegedly make it easier on Constance while he started his new life in Vienna. Constance discovering this, of course, leads to some more very emotional moments upon confrontation, and Raison ably delivers a truly monumental performance as Constance is put through the emotional wringer. The typical gender role reversal from this era in time’s norm between this one-time husband and wife is fascinating, and the stern proclamations of Constance regarding marriage certainly still ring true to this day.
Of course, as important as the emotional journey that Constance undergoes is the return of Lisa Greenwood’s Flip Jackson or, more appropriately Flip Ramone. Having married her long-term boyfriend, a wayward wedding invitation for the Doctor has resulted in her being transported away from her wedding reception to Vienna as well. After an awkward introduction to Constance where she is mistaken for Henry’s mistress, Constance and Flip form an easy camaraderie with an incredibly unique underlying dynamic as past and present collide, and it’s clear that this new dynamic will make for some very interesting adventures for the Sixth Doctor in the future. Flip doesn’t necessarily have a tremndous amount to do throughout the story, but her trademark spunk is on full display and certainly brings a unique presence to this post-war time period.
Unfortunately, ‘Quicksilver’ is simply too busy for its allotted running time. Significantly expanding the backstory of Constance, catching the audience up with Flip’s recent past, and then redefining the present situations of both companions while manoeuvering them into the same location through various plot devices is a tall task in its own right, and ‘Quicksilver’ manages to do all of that quite easily. As a result, though, the impending Vilal war and the truth behind the covert Quicksilver project itself are not as defined and expanded as they might be in other tales. They serve more to advance the very human and personal plotlines rather than as a wholly effective core threat, though that threat does at elast allow each of the leads to showcase his or her individual talents while again allowing the Doctor find a non-violent resolution.
This trilogy of Sixth Doctor adventures has progressively become more and more personal, and ‘Quicksilver’ certainly taps into hidden inner emotions more than most Doctor Who stories even attempt to do. While many stories sacrifice true emotional exploration in order to advance their science fiction ideas, ‘Quicksilver’ is quite the opposite, and it mostly works to superb effect. Though it does leave the alien threat somewhat unexplored, ‘Quicksilver’ manages to accomplish a tremendous amount with no padding, and it’s hard to argue with what is accomplished within the confines of four episodes.