The Running Men

Posted in Audio by - February 19, 2024
The Running Men

Released February 2024


In Mark Wright’s ‘The Running Man,’ the TARDIS brings the Ninth Doctor to twenty-first century Halifax where he becomes embroiled in Sergeant Ambika Desai’s investigation into a mysterious death. Heading to the Hebble Piazza, they soon uncover the actions of a dishonest property developer that seem directly linked to the dark, distant past of this city.

Though the guillotine is known best for its use in France, the barbaric execution device was used earlier in England with the Gibbet Law of Halifax sentencing thieves to beheading dating back to at least 1280 with records of its use dating to at least 1650. Though the exact count of victims remains unknown, the rather fascinating notion that a convicted person should be allowed freedom if able to withdraw his or her head while the blade was descending and then escape across a nearby stream- a remarkable feat that John Lacey faously achieved in 1617- gives the name to this story and a local public house. As in so many Doctor Who stories, that local history provides a strong backdrop to the tale being told here as the running men rise from history once again.

As a deceitful businessperson looking to put profit and progress above all else, Pooky Quesnel plays Annalise Avenley with a certain ruthlessness and power that provides a strong antagonistic force as a very visual extraterrestrial threat intermingles. This is the type of story that would not seem out of place in the early Pertwee era, and the format itself is strong enough to work within the more modern context and stylings of the Eccleston era. However, the actual plot itself is pretty sparse despite a lot of action and dialogue and somewhat conveniently hinges on a fluke confrontation with a creature during the Doctor’s travels in the TARDIS, facts thankfully made up for by the sterling chemistry between Christopher Eccleston and Fiona Wade as the Doctor and Desai continue their investigations. The Doctor can almost never help but get involved in a mystery when he sees one, his inner child and curiosity getting the best of him, and his reactions to having to go moment by moment with normal human conventions are brilliant. It’s easy to imagine Desai who has overcome her own share of hardships to reach her current position and who understands all too well the hurdles that remain for potential career advancement becoming a recurring character, such is the strength of the relationship that develops.

Wright states that this idea took several years to come to fruition as he thought about it and considered it for other Doctors, but while the premise is strong enough at its foundation, there still isn’t quite enough substance or streamlined focus to deliver a truly impactful experience like the heights of The Ninth Doctor Adventures have previously offered. Nonetheless, the fascinating look into the local history of Halifax as well as the brilliant performances and sound design more than elevate any shortcomings with depth to help deliver an intriguing extraterrestrial threat steeped in modern sensibilities and problems. Eccleston continues to excel with another truly powerful and captivating performance, and his Doctor’s conviction and earnestness that are buoyed by a sense of levity continue to find great success in the audio medium.

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