Warlock’s Cross

Posted in Audio by - November 15, 2018
Warlock’s Cross

Released November 2018
SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

Concluding the trilogy of adventures featuring UNIT and medical officer Daniel Hopkins that began with the Fifth Doctor in ‘The Helliax Rift’ and continued with the Sixth Doctor in ‘Hour of the Cybermen,’ ‘Warlock’s Cross’ by Steve Lyons reunites the Seventh Doctor with Elizabeth Klein as the truth behind UNIT and the eponymous research facility threatens to become public.

The story of Doctor Elizabeth Klein is a fascinating and complex one, and it’s far more necessary in this story that so prominently brings personal demons and turmoil to the forefront to at least have a fair understanding of how much she has been through over her lifespan(s). As such, it’s surprising that more time isn’t taken to explain how this one-time Nazi eventually came to be the scientific adviser of UNIT as seen in UNIT: Dominion so that new or occasional audience members aren’t left missing a vital portion of Klein’s characterisation. Without that knowledge, the emotion she carries with her and just why she always seems to be looking over her shoulder as her past follows her otherwise doesn’t resonate more than anyone else’s story as the dark psychological influence of Warlock’s Cross begins to manifest.. Beginning as a favourite of the Führer in a Nazi-dominated timeline, Klein then inadvertently alerted the Seventh Doctor to her intentions to change history when trying to learn to pilot the TARDIS as instructed by a shrouded version of the Eighth; while then traveling with the Seventh Doctor at his insistence so that he could keep his eye on her to prevent her from interfering with history, she took her first opportunity to steal the TARDIS to restore her version of reality. Later tried and accepting erasure from the timeline to restore her truth, an alternate version of Klein was instead created that became renowned for her work at UNIT and protecting the Earth. With Klein never being far from the Doctor’s gaze in this timeline as she began to piece together what had happened, this is a character with a tremendous backstory that needs to be put in context for her psychological exploration to succeed, but, regardless, Tracey Childs continues to excel with incredible nuance and pathos as ghosts of her past continue to haunt her now that the Umbrella Man is once more back in her life.

The story does do better to fill in the blanks about Hopkins who unsurprisingly features quite prominently here as well, and this once-promising UNIT figure who turned down the opportunity to travel with the Doctor but who later became so incredibly broken after the death of his family in a fire proves integral to the continuing events of Warlock’s Cross with its history of psychological research and alien technology given his own past duties with UNIT and his continuing state of mind in which numbers are a greater comfort than emotions. Wisely, however, this isn’t a tale in which Hopkins is the clear-cut villain despite the questionable choices he has made and the continuing conflict within him, and the story excels as various characters come to the forefront in turn and must engage with a shifting reality both in mind and in truth, even positioning the Doctor to take the ultimate action and change the established history with Klein studying his every move and the story seeming to enjoy intimating that she just might revert to what she once was given all of the influences and power around her.

However, as strong as the interpersonal relationships on display are as Colonel McKenna strives to retain control while the Doctor mysteriously walks free no matter his actions and while another of UNIT’s past comrades strives to bring the whispers’ destructive desires to fruition, the story never quite manages to build up the danger as one befitting of a trilogy finale. While part of this is due to the fairly disparate nature of the stories despite Hopkins’s life and tragedy interlinking all three in more ways than simply being present since one threat hasn’t been overtly present through all three, it’s also due to the presentation of the plan through simple statements rather than explicit actions beyond those being set up to put the plan in motion. ‘Warlock’s Cross’ is overall a quieter and more sombre affair than the first two acts of this trilogy, delivering a tremendous atmosphere and making great use of Klein for those already familiar with her past, but despite wonderful performances and interactions, the pacing is often quite slow and a bit too much backstory in general is glossed over to truly allow for the personal impact needed to make up for a threat that never quite manifests as intended.

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