The Tactics of Defeat

Posted in Audio by - July 01, 2018
The Tactics of Defeat

Released June 2018
SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

Closing out The Second Doctor Volume Two is perhaps the most daring entry in The Companion Chronicles range yet with Tony Jones’s ‘The Tactics of Defeat,’ a tale that sidelines the Doctor, Jamie, and to a large extent Zoe as well to instead focus on Big Finish’s original character UNIT Captain Ruth Matheson as she travels to the jungles of Belize and must quickly decide what sacrifices she is willing to make to save the world from the re-emergence of a seventeenth century threat.

‘The Tactics of Defeat’ marks the fifth audio story to feature Matheson, and Daphne Ashbrook clearly has a firm command of the mannerisms and stylings of this brave and no-nonsense soldier who is unafraid of sacrificing her life for the greater good. Following up the events of the Short Trips instalment ‘The Turn of the Screw,’ Matheson is armed only with a surprisingly spotty recording of Zoe Heriot on top of her standard UNIT gear as she enters the realm of notorious arms dealer Deakin as played by Matthew Brenher. With Matheson searching for a particular vial and offering to give information about other artefacts and some five million dollars in exchange for it, Deakin is quick to realise the opportunity before him, and this man to whom money means nothing and who finds himself confined to this particular location because of a spreading alien means that has extended his life far beyond its normal end tests his newest visitor in the most dangerous of ways to determine if she is worthy of his time and attention to discuss a potential trade or transaction.

This challenge perhaps doesn’t necessarily provide the ultimate test for Matheson that other planned circumstances could have, but it does give good insight into the inner workings of this character as she comes to realise that she has been thinking like a prisoner and must change her tactics to survive. Instead, it’s the wonderful interaction between these two complex individuals as Matheson tries to chip away at the complete control that Deakin has that so effortlessly carries the first episode before Zoe Heriot whom Deakin has no knowledge of despite Matheson’s insistence that she was here in the past makes her presence known. Deakin is far too smart to be taken in by an attempt at deception, though, and he assumes that the sudden appearancse of Zoe and the TARDIS directly after Matheson mentions Zoe’s recording and shows him a device that senses the artron energy of time machines are parts of a ploy to catch him off guard. With Matheson instructed to kill Zoe if she wants the vial that she believes contains a viable source of an alien plague that could kill millions if released, a dangerous predestination paradox with Zoe’s life seemingly at stake unfolds.

This is another story where the temporal elements enhance overall experience, and Ashbrook and Wendy Padbury share an immense chemistry during their short time together as Matheson and Zoe try to uncover the truth about what is occurring and how Zoe’s message and particular items Matheson holds that could only have come from the Doctor in the future fit into the overall puzzle. Of course, Zoe’s intelligence is far in advance of just about anyone else’s within the Doctor Who universe, but both leading heroines have plenty of opportunities to showcase their improvisational skills and intellect as they together but separately take the fight back to their captor and tormentor who has his eyes set on the time travel capabilities of the TARDIS. It’s fair to say that some may lament the complete exclusion of the Doctor and Jamie while putting such extreme focus on an immensely intriguing non-companion not of the era, but ‘The Tactics of Defeat’ is nonetheless a uniquely strong story in its own right and highlights the versatility of this range and the strength of two women introduced so many years apart.

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