The Scorchies

Posted in Audio by - June 29, 2019
The Scorchies

Released March 2013

With the Third Doctor exiled to Earth for a substantial portion of his televised tenure and never far from his UNIT family for too long once his exile was lifted, this era of the programme was able to more directly reference the stream of public consciousness and the aspects of everyday life that either were or had the potential to become a threat in some capacity. In ‘The Scorchies,’ writer James Goss presents the strangest case yet for the Doctor, the Brigadier, and Jo Grant as they must tackle a Saturday night television programme that has been invaded by puppet-like aliens who want to kill the Doctor and take over the world, all while performing show-stopping musical numbers.

The premise of an alien race traveling between planets and using children’s television to hypnotise the masses is audaciously brilliant and yet staggeringly plausible given how effectively the repetitious songs can etch themselves into viewers’ minds. The Scorchies externally are presented as exactly the type of saccharine and friendly creatures one would expect, their cute appearance and high-pitched and lilting tones hardly suggesting the sinister plans they hold, and that dichotomy between form and function works to brilliant effect as the hold that media can have with its power of messaging comes to the forefront with the Doctor recognising this particular threat from afar. Much of ‘The Scorchies’ is filled with Jo and the aliens filling each other in on events that led them both to this point, but the unrepentant cruelty of this race who comes from a planet that television enslaved and destroyed and who now use television to do the same to other races who have not yet succumbed to that fate is a succinct and devastatingly effective backstory that develops the creatures and the baffled Professor exceedingly well.

Katy Manning, as always, brings an infectious enthusiasm to ‘The Scorchies,’ and her energy exemplifies the mania of the world Jo suddenly finds herself in as she must play along with the Scorchies’ plans and songs. Indeed, this is a story that makes liberal use of songs that are suitably simple and yet eminently catchy, and Manning along with co-star Melvyn Hayes bring the expanded roster of characters to life to give a full-cast feeling to this production while also proving their versatility by seamlessly incorporating their own musical ability. Whether singing about Jo making a thing or the death of the Doctor, the songs are vital to proceedings and even those listeners who would normally scoff at this type of story should be able to appreciate the unique quirkiness of this setup that allows Jo to once more prove her determination and ingenuity along with just how dearly she cares about the Doctor. This is certainly an atypical release even in a range that refuses to be defined by any specific set of expectations or rules, and Richard Fox and Lauren Yason deserve due credit for so effectively integrating the unique music and sound design into this story to allow the children’s programme format to truly thrive and develop without ever feeling cumbersome or intrusive.

‘The Scorchies’ is ludicrous yet sinister in equal measure, and the immense imagination and genuine heart resting at its core assure that it will remain one of the most memorable instalments of The Companion Chronicles and of Big Finish’s forays into the Third Doctor era, in particular. The story may not be the mot complex, but the rules that Jo must abide by provide a logical means for the resolution, and the bizarre world of the Scorchies is entirely put into context by the time the closing theme rolls, providing a cohesive and entirely satisfying self-contained adventure that instantly begs for an encore appearance from its destructive foes.

  • Release Date: 3/2013
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