Released November 2015
In 2029 Arizona, billionaire philanthropist Dr Hugo Macht’s attempts to save the world from climate change with nanoatomic machines and terraforming experiences a surprising setback as his diggers uncover a Viking burial barrow with eight corpses, a strange shield, and an indecipherable inscription. As a wave of artron energy diverts the Doctor and Constance from their search for a restaurant to the deserts of Arizona as well, the horror and strength of an ancient Frost Giant seeking flesh quickly makes itself known.
From the start, there is an epic sense of scale to ‘Shield of the Jötunn’ due to the highly-visual setting and the advent of American cast members. Even as the diggers nearly bury the Doctor and Constance and a blizzard overtakes the scorching heat of an Arizona August day, grabbing people and leaving only their bones behind, Constance never loses her mettle or calm determination. Her opening stories have already proven what a tough personality she possesses, but Miranda Raison in ‘Shield of the Jötunn’ excels herself in conveying Constance with a sense of credulity and earnestness no matter how bizarre events get without ever seeming overwhelmed or at a loss.
Fortunately, as the Doctor and Constance split up, the former finding the shield that had recently been torn away from a Viking corpse and the latter finding the TARDIS translation circuit to begin working on the Viking inscriptions, ‘Shield of the Jötunn’ manages to tell its full narrative in a very logical and straightforward fashion. With an effective cameo from Louise Jameson, the tale of a wise woman giving the Vikings the means of defeating the Jötunn Ice Giant ravaging their village is told. However, the titular shield remains as an artefact that can resurrect the Ice Giant, and the Vikings thus traveled to the far-off, uncharted land that would end up being Arizona with intentions of forever hiding it. Writer Ian Edginton makes superb use of Norse mythology and creates a very visual backstory that certainly helps to amplify the dramatic tension of the present events.
Even with the occasional sidesteps into the Viking history, ‘Shield of the Jötunn’ proceeds at a breakneck pace that will certainly keep listeners enthralled from beginning to end. The near-future setting and its grim outlook as increasingly more extravagant means prove necessary to keep humans from destroying their own planet work exceedingly well. However, it’s the unique juxtapositions of blizzard and desert and of Viking man and distinctly modern man that provide the core impetus for this strong story. While ‘Shield of Jötunn’ may not strive to offer anything completely new or novel to the Doctor Who universe, it nonetheless is an extremely confident tale brimming with vivid imagery and an incredible sense of purpose and scope. Colin Baker and Miranda Raison have already proven to be an exceedingly effective team, and Mrs Constance Clarke only continues to become braver and more confident as she experiences the wonders of the universe first-hand. With strong performances buoying a strong script, ‘Shield of the Jötunn’ ends Big Finish’s 2015 main range of trilogies in exceedingly grand fashion.