The Beautiful Game

Posted in Audio by - May 14, 2023
The Beautiful Game

Released May 2023


Katharine Armitage pens the conclusion to Pioneers, ‘The Beautiful Game,’ and shows the Doctor choosing to attend the historic meeting that would form the foundation of the football league. He arrives a week early, however, and must ask for help from a hotel maid to save humanity from an obsessive alien that could destroy everything associated with the sport.

While there hasn’t really been any meaningful indication that the Ninth Doctor is a fan of football prior to his professed love of it here, it nonetheless provides a great piece of characterization that further humanizes him while providing a unique foundation for an adventure. Naturally, the story would never just focus around a group of men discussing the nuances of the league’s structure and points system amidst differing opinions about remaining amateur or turning professional; while there are brief moments where these discussions do invariably feature, the Doctor’s mandate to not specifically discuss football for fear of strengthening the alien keeps this foundation as something far more secondary than the title might otherwise suggest. However, while Strike unquestionably poses a distinct and mortal danger, its threat of destroying anything and everything associated with the sport of football that it has become obsessed with is more of a threat in the abstract given how it is explained in relation to every cake being eaten if Striker were to similarly obsess over it with any other dessert and sweet being spared. As such, much of the story comes down to the Doctor trying to track this alien before it can do anything more substantively harmful, never allowing the alien drama to reach its true potential and thus creating the feeling that there was a much more impactful story to be told somewhere within all of this.

To be fair, Armitage does try to fill this void by incorporating a women’s suffrage and equality storyline that ends up being far more impactful than what ostensibly is the crux of the story. While this portion of the narrative is obviously given less time to feature precisely because of the football and alien elements with obligatory football terminology liberally thrown in for good measure, the discussion of the world and society needing to change are fairly profound and represent a necessary force of forward thinking to combat the rather stereotypical sexism- both in terms of women in society and in football- that pervades the script as befitting of the times. With football itself hardly a driving force here, the historical figure of William Suddell is given little to do aside from voicing those the sexist norms of the time. Raymond Coulthard gives a strong performance as Suddell, but the character is completely overshadowed by Andrew Ellis as Donald and especially by Rachel Fenwick as Daphne who represent the far more incisive and open-minded side of society no matter any individual’s current station in life. Again, in a story with multiple plot points competing for time and not completely intertwining cohesively, it’s this one that offers far more weightiness and resonance in what is otherwise a relatively lightweight affair. It should be stated that, as always, Christopher Eccleston is magnificent and expertly delivers a sense of level-headedness and determination despite the obvious panic Strike’s obsession creates, creating a binding and spellbinding force for this interesting but somewhat fragmented story that doesn’t quite reach the resonant highs of the preceding two in Pioneers despite the rather beautiful discussion about the power of football to unite at its core.

This post was written by

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.