Shadow of the Past

Posted in Audio by - April 02, 2019
Shadow of the Past

Released April 2010

As The Companion Chronicles once more turns to the early Third Doctor era with Simon Guerrier’s ‘Shadow of the Past,’ Dr Elizabeth Shaw likewise returns to UNIT for the first time in decades to unravel the past, exploring Vault 75-73/Whitehall and the housed remains of a spaceship that crashed in the Pennines in the 1970s.

‘Shadow of the Past’ perfectly encapsulates everything that made season seven on screen so unique even if many elements of the plot have been utilised elsewhere previously, and it’s fitting that Liz should point out that UNIT’s priority during her tenure was often to mobilise as quickly as possible due to the limited warning of approaching spacecraft that the technology of the time provided. With the current knowledge of what UNIT and extraterrestrial security would come to be, the more homespun and brazen nature of the organisation in the 1970s is wonderfully recreated, and the explicit setting of this story following the encounter with the Silurians allows the simmering conflict of viewpoints between the Doctor and the Brigadier to once more resurface to add another intriguing element to the Doctor’s intense desire to escape his exile on Earth by whatever means possible. This is one of the few times in the franchise’s long history where the motives of the Doctor regarding his friendships and alliances are somewhat murky, and it’s just believable enough that he might actually turn on UNIT to take advantage of the opportunity this spaceship presents. Quite brilliantly, however, it’s the fact that the Doctor would never hide his frustration stemming from his exile that fuels the ultimate resolution of the unique danger that the shape-shifting Mim poses.

Although having a companion narrate the story does mean that some of the interpersonal drama surrounding the Doctor remains more on the periphery, Caroline John once again proves herself to be a brilliant and captivating narrator who can both command attention and bring out a wide range of emotions as necessary. This is Liz at her intelligent and thoughtful best, and she harbours some regrets walking away from UNIT because of the wonders that were available to her and because of how much she could have taught those within if they had only listened. She has a reputation of being fairly dispassionate, but her fear of what plague or danger this spaceship may bring upon Earth and her struggle to cope with the loss of life incurred during this serial expertly highlight just how well-rounded this character is even if she possesses such a composed and professional veneer.

‘Shadow of the Past’ makes excellent use of the framing device as Lex Shrapnel’s Marshal asks all of the right questions in all of the right places to ensure further development of the plot, but this same framing device can’t manage to hide the intended twist ending precisely because of its intimate nature following the revelation that a self-healing and shapeshifting presence is involved. Nonetheless, while the story itself may not quite make the list of all-time classics, the overall production is a thoroughly enjoyable one that excellently captures the spirit of its time and that benefits further from strong direction and sound design to bring out each needed nuance to its maximum.

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