Subterfuge

Posted in Audio by - March 19, 2020
Subterfuge

Released March 2020

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

Closing out the Seventh Doctor’s 2020 audio trilogy, Helen Goldwyn takes the traveling Time Lord to 1945 London as Winston Churchill campaigns for re-election in ‘Subterfuge.’ With the Monk meddling as usual and here promising Churchill victory to lead a bright future for Britain through a vote the Doctor knows his dear friend must lose, however, far more than just humanity hangs in the balance, and even the trust built through several lifetimes is anything but assured.

In a release highlighted by three such dynamic characters, Goldwyn does superb working allowing the motivations of each to truly develop and manifest. For his part, the Monk has always been one of the most intriguing presences within the Doctor Who universe, one who is unquestionably out for his own gain but who distinctly moves in the shadowy realm of space somewhere between where the Doctor and the Master normally operate. However, while maintaining an essence of his usual over-the-top nature, Rufus Hound in ‘Subterfuge’ brings out a more sinister edge in his performance to truly emphasize just how committed the Monk is here to bringing about what he believes to be a better future even if known history will be completely rewritten in the process. Given that Churchill who has a very close relationship with the Doctor is the hinge upon which all of history rests as a question of whether to verbally go on the attack or to appeal to the optimism of the public with promised changes to society itself becomes paramount, this creates a fascinating exploration of just how similar and dissimilar these two conniving Time Lords can be as each attempts to bide his time while manipulating events towards the future he sees as the best possible outcome.

Of course, Ian McNeice likewise excels as Winston Churchill in arguably his strongest performance for Big Finish yet as his powerful and verbose character’s desires and thoughts in a crucial time period come to the fore. It’s easy for such an important historical figure to often become a caricature of himself when relying simply on name or setting to drive the plot forward, but here the very real struggle of how best to present the future to the public is truly an enthralling central problem that is both relatable and hugely relevant given real-world current events. McNeice delivers a keen ability to reason and deliberate with a healthy dose of egoism and bravado that presents Churchill at his most dynamic while anchoring a story that sees him being pulled in two directions and more than compensating for the espionage and alien plots that- while certainly featuring intriguing elements and characters that amplify the immediate danger immensely- don’t quite manage to resonate as profoundly as the leading trio.

Big Finish has always proven adept at realistically providing a soundscape to evoke its historical settings, and the ‘Subterfuge’ along with its terrific direction and acting certainly does not disappoint in that regard as it vividly brings to life the hopes and uncertainty of post-war Britain. With plenty of twists and betrayals to support its action-oriented approach to politics, this is a story with a main narrative that will ensnare its listeners from beginning to end, and Sylvester McCoy and his Doctor’s unqiue relationship with Churchill that is perhaps unsurprising but wholly effective proves to be the perfect choice around which to base this most fascinating visit to the recent past.

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