The Shroud

Posted in Audio by - July 30, 2023
The Shroud

Released July 2023


Arriving on the planet Ninevah, the Doctor and Jamie discover an anxious and desperate human colony fighting for its survival due to the devasting effects of a superweapon that has nullified all light to open ‘The Shroud’ by Bob Ayres. With the humans effectively blinded and aggressive aliens dubbed ‘Squids’ waiting for the inevitable fall, the two must balance their desire to help the humans fight back with the need to find out just what the mission they have been sent here to complete for the Time Lords actually is.

In its earlier days, Big Finish would more routinely experiment with plot devices and story formats that were perfectly and uniquely suited for the audio medium, and Ayres puts a clever spin on a story told in total darkness by presenting an advanced weapon as the cause. Effectively, this makes the purported invasion an all but bloodless one as the Squids need simply wait for any plant and animal life sustaining this colony to die off before the metaphorical gates are eventually left unguarded. And, indeed, the Squids themselves being a sightless race gives the perfect reasoning for the use of such a weapon as any perceived advantage for the humans is effectively nullified.

Yet while the Second Doctor era is famed for its brilliant use of the base under siege format, ‘The Shroud’ expertly subverts expected norms as the Doctor looks to learn more about these tentacled aliens, willingly sacrificing himself to be detained and trusting Jamie to rescue him from whatever he is about to get himself into this time. Instead of finding a species looking to acquire territory or mineral wealth, however, the Doctor instead finds the Hearken a species on a mission of mercy, looking to help the humans survive the Shroud but finding any attempts at communication blocked or forcefully fought back. While deftly tying into his script the implicit dangers of preconceptions and prejudices based on appearances and due to fear, Ayres wholly effectively creates a dynamic threat and danger that becomes all the more visceral when it finally becomes clear just who must be behind the Shroud and its effects.

Although the Time Lords were effectively an unknown element prior to ‘The War Games,’ their power has never been in question, and subsequent stories and eras have brutally highlighted the extreme lengths they have at times gone to in order to ensure their own enduring supremacy in an ever-changing universe. That Raven has sent the Doctor and Jamie here to clean up the Time Lords’ own mess after losing control over the now-sentient Shroud that was intended to set back the progress of temporal experiments that just might give humanity access to time travel capabilities is an excellent use of this Season 6B format, and it again allows the shrewdness of the Doctor to take centre stage as he brings together the many disparate plot threads before him. While he showed previously in ‘The Green Man’ that he can furtively work around the confines of his begrudging agreement with Raven, he here shows that no agreement is iron-clad and that he can still assume the upper hand whenever an opportunity presents itself. Michael Troughton excels throughout ‘The Shroud’ and particularly in these find confrontational moments with Raven which Emma Noakes also plays so well by injecting some genuine emotion into her Time Lord who has been caught firmly wrong-footed. It remains to be seen, of course, just how these final developments will affect this series arc as a whole, but the secrets of the Time Lords and the Doctor’s unwillingness to simply accept at face value what he is told and sees with his very life in this regeneration held in the balance should continue to make for a truly exciting and unique range of stories. ‘The Shroud’ with its more expanded cast is wonderfully, written, paced, directed, and acted, and only the unfortunate fact that the Doctor and Jamie must be apart for so long to result in only one of the three stories within James Robert McCrimmon highlighting their brilliant friendship keeps this from ticking off every box that a story featuring this duo should contain.

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.