The Sleeping Blood

Posted in Audio by - April 25, 2018
The Sleeping Blood

Released June 2015
SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

After a year in hibernation, The Companion Chronicles returns to Big Finish’s list of active ranges, changing its release schedule from monthly instalments to one annual release of four stories featuring either the First or Second Doctor eras to offset the new fuller-cast The Early Adventures range. Starting at the very beginning before the Doctor fatefully met Ian and Barbara after the two followed Susan into a junkyard, ‘The Sleeping Blood’ by Martin Day sees the Doctor fall ill and Susan forced to leave the TARDIS to find medical supplies or assistance, only to quickly become embroiled in the deadly plans of a terrorist holding an entire world to ransom.

Set before the events of ‘An Unearthly Child,’ ‘The Sleeping Blood’ doesn’t necessarily do anything intrinsically novel with its chronological setting, but it does allow Susan the opportunity to truly step up and take charge in a fashion that the original television series never really allowed. At this time, she has already come to think of the TARDIS as a home, but she can’t wait to get out and adventure after feeling confined even within the infinite reaches of its interior,, quickly finding much more adventure than she bargained for on her desperate search for medical aid. Finding a deserted medical research centre layered in dust, she soon finds that the colony planet Rua is one where antibiotics are no longer used because of overuse leading to the development of bacterial resistance. Instead, the population has come to rely on nanotechnology that can fix a problem or malady and later be reprogrammed to tackle another. However, with a terrorist known as the Butcher able to hack into that technology and effectively end any life he so chooses, a governmental retaliatory group comprised of ruthless individuals who have never needed nanotechnology and are thus immune to his attacks leads the charge to find this traitor and secure the safety of the civilisation.

‘The Sleeping Blood’ does wisely add some degree of moral ambiguity to its narrative as the Butcher proclaims that he is not a terrorist to keep this adventure from becoming too straightforward. The description of this feared individual as a blind rodent afraid of the day is perfectly fitting, but although the timing of his revelations about his past and the fact that he is fighting to get medical care for everyone instead of simply the elite who can afford it makes the Butcher a tragic- if misguided- figure and calls the true ownership of that title into question, it also gives something of a sense of futility to the denouement that somewhat lets down what is ultimately a fairly hard-hitting tale even if the Butcher killing only one member of the group hunting him down instead of all is a glaring question mark. And although Susan isn’t quite as involved in the resolution as one may expect given her proactive and determined status before, Carole Ann Ford perfectly rises to the occasion of carrying this story laden in tension and atmosphere as she tries to cope with the danger from within as much as that from her surroundings. With technological horror coming to the forefront in a story that becomes surprisingly intimate as more lives are lost and that forces Susan to become involved in local events and morally question the resulting outcome, ‘The Sleeping Blood’ uses its lead actress and narrative misdirection to great effect to offer a fitting beginning to this re-launch of sorts of The Companion Chronicles.

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