The Iron Shore

Posted in Audio by - February 27, 2023
The Iron Shore

Released February 2023


Landing on the sea-faring Mercator, a world renowned for its impervious iron, the Doctor and Jo soon meet Callis, a supposedly cursed man who is the last of his family line, in ‘The Iron Shore’ by Lizzie Hopley. A condemned wet dock nearby is the source of haunting rumours at the core of so many deaths that have plagued the once-bustling but now-deserted waterfront, but the truth beneath is far more insidiously terrifying and powerful than any ghost the locals may believe there to be.

Interestingly, Hopley decides to play with the traditional formula and begin momentously with the proclamation of the Doctor’s death. When taken, this is a narrative approach that by definition puts the companion front and centre with an increased focus on particular thoughts, emotions, and motivations. Of course, since Big Finish is more or less founded on filling in the gaps for previous incarnations of the Doctor than that currently headlining the televised adventures, some of the inherent impact of this type of opening is minimized since the audience knows that it cannot possibly be true; however, Jo- who dares not consider that any of her trips with the Doctor may be her last- is living in the moment with no foreknowledge of what may yet occur or if this is the moment when her beloved friend will take one step closer to becoming the young, bow-tied incarnation she has previously met. Accordingly, Katy Manning deftly steps up to the task of imbuing her acting and narration with an incredible range of emotions that spotlights not only Jo’s obvious affinity for the Doctor but also her strength of character, fortitude, and overwhelming compassion as she tries to understand the actions both taken and yet to be taken by the creature below the wet dock that can leach onto a soul and destroy anyone linked to them. Full credit must be given to Tim Treloar as the Third Doctor who here must formulate a strategy that puts himself and the TARDIS squarely at risk as he attempts to get the creature to give into its desire to spread its destructive influence throughout the cosmos in order to loosen its grip in this locale, but this very much is Manning’s time to shine and she once again proves just how incredibly versatile and powerful her performances can be as her more experienced and worldly Jo is confronted with utterly unthinkable situations and decisions.

Given the nature of the being who has made the wet dock its home, the tone and atmosphere of ‘The Iron Shore’ is incredibly morose and sombre, creating something almost wholly unique for the Third Doctor era. The sound design and music perfectly accentuate the gloomy nature of the Iron Shores and represent a unique hybrid of 1970s and 2020s as is so befitting of this set in particular with an elder Jo at its centre, and the added touches of discussing the long-standing tensions between the merchants and the native Iron Pickers as well as detailing the local response Callis receives whenever he enters a scene do well to dynamically flesh out this location and the burden Callis, in particular, carries with him as he struggles to carry on and do good regardless of the legacy of his family and the dark history of this locale. ‘The Iron Shore’ is far more than simply another monster story, and while Hopley does manage to give some depth to the creature whose experiences are so limited while expertly highlighting just how spectacularly controlling and destructive it can be to those in any way associated with anyone it contacts, the true strength lies with the perseverance of the people around it and the unbreakable bond between the Third Doctor and Jo. It’s not necessarily a story that does anything new with these two dynamic leads and certainly could have occurred within their original timespan together, but the combined end result is chillingly effective and unquestionably resonant.

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