The Red House

Posted in Audio by - July 28, 2018
The Red House

Released August 2015
SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

The events leading up to the Sixth Doctor’s long-shrouded regeneration continue to come into focus as The Last Adventure presses on with Alan Barnes’s ‘The Red House,’ stepping back in this incarnation’s lengthy and multifaceted chronology to his travels alongside India Fisher’s Edwardian- or Georgian, if she’s being proper- Adventuress Charlotte Pollard as they arrive on a world populated by werewolves.

Released almost six years following Charley’s final of nine appearances alongside Colin Baker in September 2009’s ‘Blue Forgotten Planet,’ Barnes by necessity must include some information to ensure that the audience understands the secrets Charley is keeping and knowledge she inadvertently alludes to because of having already traveled with the Eighth Doctor and her desire to keep the web of time in one piece given her own complex history following the R101 crash. Barnes has thus charted her time alongside the Doctor from the very beginning to the very end should this be her last appearance, and it’s clear that he retains a masterful hold on the character as she offhandedly shows the class of her upbringing as well as the practicality that traveling in the TARDIS has taught her when her spirit for adventure leads to the most terrible danger from which there is seemingly no way to escape with everyone alive. Their run of stories together was understandably short given the secret at the heart of it, but Baker and Fisher quickly crafted an immense chemistry that is instantly rekindled here to form the heart of this story as well.

Naturally, the Valeyard proves to be the prefect character to bring up the anomaly that Charley presents as he begins to put his nefarious plan into action and steals Dr Paignton’s intriguing extraction machine. It’s clear that the Valeyard is playing a very long game, and though his ability to freeze time certainly elevates him above the level of any typical threat, it also takes away from drama that had been building as death for almost all involved seems all but inevitable. Still, Michael Jayston is mesmerising in the role as always, and such an anticipated send-off for the Sixth Doctor most certainly requires this charismatic antagonist who is able to scheme with a conniving intelligence and ability to look ahead that few others possess.

The central premise of ‘The Red House’ is a clever subversion on werewolf mythology in which wolves become people in the moonlight. This proves to the Doctor that there is still so much that he has yet to see in his many travels, and it also escalates the danger immensely since both friend and foe alike carry an inherent danger. There is a bit too much hippie-themed dialogue throughout, but having a police station manned by werewolves in this society where humanity is shunned except by one small group of rebels who wants to embrace it to its fullest is a strong backdrop that continues the tale’s strictly atypical setup. Surprisingly, an ethical component is quite successfully instilled into the plot as well as it is revealed that people in this colony are seen as something akin to lepers, this colony originally created when Earth colonists ostracised those who were bitten by the native canines of this world that infected them with a virus that turned them into werewolves every eight days. With each generation, the wolf aspect has become more prevalent, and the wolves’ current state has again caused the prospect of total extermination to become pertinent in the outside humans’ eyes. With Dr Paignton tasked with isolating the wolf component and eradicating it, it comes as no surprise that the humans have a much more definitive answer in store.

The plot does lose some of its effectiveness once the story switches from a fight to retain individuality to a conflict based on a misunderstanding despite the understandable motivations of all involved, and the rushed resolution spearheaded by the Valeyard away from the main action keeps the story from reaching its full potential. However, the subversion of expectations, the strong imagery, and the captivating performances of the three leads make for a nonetheless enjoyable story in its own right that uses the extraction machine and the strange appearance of the TARDIS key in the door to further the overall narrative of The Last Adventure to good effect.

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