Posted in Audio by - August 06, 2023

Released August 2023


When the very foundation of the Galactic Federation is threatened by the authoritative presidential candidacy of Bellatrix Vega whose only opponent has been found dead, the Doctor convinces the newly elected representative Alpha Centauri to run against her in order to save this great democracy in ‘Run’ by Robert Valentine.

Of course, “Run!” was the first word that the Ninth Doctor stated upon the return of Doctor Who to screens in 2005, and with the return of the Ice Warriors and Alpha Centauri as the cover art reveals, utilizing that simple word laden with such importance to tell a politically-motivated story is a bold and clever choice. Uniquely, however, this represents the very formative stages of Alpha Centauri’s career, meaning that the Doctor must gracefully steer events and reassure a very unsure and novice version of his friend who will come to play such an important role for the Galactic Federation on Peladon and beyond. Both the script and Christopher Eccleston do well to layer in an implicit recognition of the Doctor’s long history with Alpha Centauri that has yet to occur from the hermaphroditic hexapod’s perspective, and Jane Goddard wonderfully coveys this character’s famed commitment to the ideals and principles of the Federation even when she must declare herself a presidential candidate to prevent authoritarianism and corruption from emerging victorious without a challenge.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, ‘Run’ is used as something of a mirror to hold up against the emergence of more authoritative and populist standards or notions within several liberal democracies around the world, the United States being an obvious particular focus given the fairly blunt variations on recent quotations that Bellatrix uses as she shows that she will do literally anything to gain and retain power. Jane Asher gives an evocative performance that emphasizes the ruthless, remorseless, and self-centred nature of Bellatrix who has no compunction sacrificing the lives of others or established norms regarding trisilicate and all else as long as her own desires are advanced. It’s perhaps equally unsurprising, then, that a woman who is willing to sacrifice so much of herself in the name of power is blind to the fact that she doesn’t hold quite as much power as she believes, and David Langham helps to bring out the dynamics and nuances of this particular play for power quite successfully.

While the message behind the aspirations and benefits of democracy is noble, however, ‘Run’ is a very straightforward story that explicitly reveals Bellatrix as the antagonist from the beginning and that never offers any sort of redemption or even attempts at layering nuance to her story. Additionally, for a story that very much celebrates democracy, there is surprisingly little fight from the masses or even the members of the Federation as a whole to mount a challenge to Bellatrix once she is the only candidate remaining; this is perhaps an indictment on overall societal indifference regarding politics or even a reflection on a possible allure of authoritarianism, but it ultimately creates a question of why the Doctor and Alpha Centauri- admittedly with some more furtive help as well from a disguised figure that the limited cast size makes rather overt- are trying to fight so hard to save the standard democratic norms about which most seem fairly unconcerned. The Doctor knows how events must ultimately play out, of course, but having a Federation fighting to protect its standards along with at least portions of a general public fighting in support as Bellatrix continues her march to power could have been a much more engrossing and satisfying narrative. Likewise, while these political stories featuring the Ice Warriors typically do well in referencing or even highlighting the Martians’ peaceful inclinations, the somewhat surprising background role that Zzargol plays as he tries to work within the system presented him means that the Ice Warrior presence itself is somewhat lessened in intensity. This approach makes sense within the confines of the narrative, but it again speaks to the rather muted and tepid response to the potential fall of democracy rather than the loud outcry that anything worth fighting for should bring forth. Still, the history that exists to varying degrees among the Doctor, Alpha Centauri, and the Ice Warriors makes for an enjoyable listen that is likely the strongest of this Travel in Hope set, but ‘Run’ really needs more time to fully develop its storyline with any meaningful depth and characterization.

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