The Behemoth

Posted in Audio by - October 11, 2017
The Behemoth

Released October 2017
SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

The historical genre is one of the most endearing and easily accessible genres that Doctor Who touches upon, having long since been abandoned by the television series to focus on science fiction and spectacle but enduring in the audio medium to explore both known and unknown true events and to bring squarely into light the brightest highs and darkest depths of human nature. When the Doctor and his two female companions cause a stir among 1756 Bath high society, the mysterious Lady Clara and the noble Captain van der Meer who have also just arrived slowly open the door to just what hides beneath the veneer of Georgian decorum.

‘The Behemoth’ is filled with several disparate ideas and plot threads that in lesser hands could lead to a rather disjointed mess, but writer Marc Platt deftly weaves together a biting look at the darker shades of humanity with sexism, racism, secrecy, and even trophy hunting all driving the narrative at different points. Indeed, the story initially seems as though it will be a fairly casual affair as the Doctor rescues the pet dog of widower Mrs Middlemint and soon finds himself an honoured guest alongside his companions at a gala where the enigmatic Lady Clara is due to make her appearance. The story also has a bit of fun as the Doctor and Mrs Middlemint spend time together alone with a late-night coffee date and time spent at her home, leaving Constance and Flip to wonder what is truly happening as the Doctor from an era with little romance enjoys a semi-romantic companionship and covertly considers another addition to his TARDIS team.

However, the lightness quickly gives way as the introduction of Reverend Naylor leads to a harrowing exploration of the darker undercurrents of human society, and Platt certainly does not shy away from including the gentry’s unabashed consideration of slaves as nothing more than property and a means to an end. While there is the occasional voice of reason that goes against the social norms of the time, this provides a pointedly shocking awakening for Constance and Flip, and Diveen Henry as Sarah and Ben Arogundale as Gorembe do fantastic work as separated lovers to provide a strong and emotional counterpoint to the biased racism surrounding them while also progressing the plot to include the mysterious Balsam’s Brassworks and its own sordid affairs.

Strangely, Clara the Indian rhinoceros and Douwe Mout van der Meer end up taking more of a supportive role than the title and blurb may suggest, but these true historical figures are nonetheless two of the more intriguing elements of this story, adding a sense of sensationalism to what ultimately serves as yet another look into the less favourable aspects of humanity. The captive rhinoceros itself also serves as a perfect allegory to the sexism and racism so rampant in this society- especially when it escapes and causes an uproar despite its calm demeanour- and creates an intriguing point of comparison as Flip fights off the unwanted attention of Titus Craven and Constance delivers a powerfully outraged speech about the casual acceptance of slavery and fascism in any form.

The performances are uniformly excellent, and Miranda Raison and Lisa Greenwood are quickly proving that the pairing of the more rigid Constance and the more street-wise Flip may become one of Big Finish’s greatest, allowing two similar but different strong viewpoints that the Doctor can wholly respect. With Colin Baker anchoring events with his usual bold charisma and Jamie Anderson providing confident direction to keep the pacing consistent among the many storylines, ‘The Behemoth’ is an engrossing drama that pulls no punches and another testament to Big Finish’s continuation with the historical genre.

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