The Red Lady

Posted in Audio by - December 04, 2018
The Red Lady

Released October 2015

Following a superb introduction to the nefarious Eleven that set the overall plot of Doom Coalition into motion, ‘The Red Lady’ by John Dorney is tasked with continuing the momentum as the Doctor and Liv trace an anomaly in time to 1960s London where the deadly secret at the heart of a recently deceased antequarian’s collection soon threatens everyone who sets eyes upon it.

Perhaps most importantly, this story represents the introduction of Helen Sinclair, a woman trying to make her way and deserving of better in a sexist time period in which she is overlooked for a promotion so that- according to her boss- she can instead focus on finding a man and starting a family. Despite the unfair disadvantage she finds herself facing, however, she quickly proves just how competent and determined she is, and she’s not afraid to stand up to and question the Doctor when he suddenly appears and claims to know far more than anyone should, both in general and in her chosen field of language and translation. However, she’s also humble enough to admit when she is wrong and out of her element, and Hattie Morahan makes an instant impact with the requisite force of conviction and modesty needed to ensure the Doctor considers her valuable enough to invite aboard the TARDIS in a permanent capacity by story’s end.

Fortunately, the mysteries of a language the Doctor cannot translate and what lies within the expansive collection that the collector’s will ordered to be sealed away sight unseen are just the beginning of what turns into a truly fascinating story full of character and intrigue. Human nature being what it is, the collection is instead donated to the British Museum where Helen works, and the singular focus of every piece whether in writing or imagery of a woman with bright red hair standing far in the distance quickly proves to be far more than a quirky interest when those who have gazed upon a particular piece for the first time notice certain changes when later looking upon the piece again. Indeed, even the Doctor is not immune to the strange forces in play when he notices the words he translated begin to indicate that this woman is drawing nearer, and the string of sudden deaths by those who have recently looked at certain pieces suddenly takes on a much more sinister undertone when Helen’s colleague succumbs to that same ultimate fate after proclaiming that the woman is taking off her mask and reaching out to him while nobody else can see more than her shrouded figure still dimly in the distance.

‘The Red Lady’ is quite small in terms of its scope, but the confined setting within the museum is used expertly to ratchet up the tension and darker ambience, the only real moment outside providing fascinating insight into the collector that allows the Doctor and his companions to piece together the circumstances surrounding his blindness and the deaths of his father, mother, wife, and son. In fact, the notion that this woman who begins her unending approach can then be transferred to another piece of writing or art to trap her afresh is a fantastic one that further ties together the shrouded truth of all of these pieces from throughout so much of Earth’s history being made and then instantly sealed away without a second glance, and vision being the means of her approach helps to create a thrilling climax in which the Doctor and Liv must act without sight and with only Helen’s vocal assistance to have any chance of surviving. With a compelling central mystery, a tense atmosphere, a strong foundation created for new companion Helen, and a thrilling cliffhanger that will lead the new trio to find Galileo after hearing his voice on a stone recording intended for the Doctor so far in his future, ‘The Red Lady’ hits all of the right notes all the way along and only amplifies the excitement and anticipation surrounding this latest series.

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