Posted in Audio by - May 25, 2023

Released May 2023


 In Ian Potter’s ‘Time-Burst,’ the Doctor and Mel have tracked the anomaly that erased Hebe to Sheffield in 1864. As the two try to trace Hebe’s heritage and to uncover the importance of the new steelworks, however, an historically tragic flood could threaten everything.

Like each of the preceding two stories in Purity Unleashed, ‘Time-Burst’ is filled with intriguing concepts, and time being rewritten to such an extent that even the books in the TARDIS library are actively changing certainly exemplifies the scale of the threat that Patricia’s McBride’s surgical interventions in time can create. Just as intriguing, however, is the Doctor flitting through apparent cracks in time without control, and although not too much is done with this concept narratively, it nonetheless layers in an additional sense of unease and danger with not even the Doctor fully in control of his own actions.

While it is somewhat convenient that the Doctor can remember that the writer Samuel Harrison who shares a surname with Hebe comes from Sheffield but not that he wrote the definitive history of the great flood at Sheffield of 1864, both the fact that the Doctor is taking a novel approach to tracing history’s divergence and that it intertwines with a genuine natural disaster that took such a tremendous toll on the region provide further intriguing narrative opportunities for the conclusion to this particular trilogy of stories. Again, though, not enough is done with these ideas to truly provide a resonant tale, the flood more or less being an impending threat that only the Doctor and Mel know about but not actually becoming a true issue until the story’s end. Without a doubt, however, McBride planning to use the flood’s devastation to her advantage by having one of the few surviving factories be under her ownership so that she can then guide the future through the applications of her steelworks productions is another conniving and nuanced scheme from McBride who continues to pose such an insidious threat even with the more ostentatious adaptations she has had to make to her suit following her previous encounter with the Doctor.

With McBride also more of a background presence here until a wholly unexpected trip through time with the Doctor that ultimately highlights just how dedicated she is to changing the world for what she perceives to be the better, Potter does a fair job of bringing Patrick and Mary to the fore to put a very human face on this time and location. Imogen Stubbs again gives a strong performance as McBride even if her more overtly evil turn does take away some of the subtle menace and charisma she previously had, but Luke R Francis and Billie Fulford-Brown very much ensure that this story remains grounded by showcasing the very relatable perspectives of two everyday characters trying to find their way in the world. Of course, these two are every bit as shrewd as Mel even if their upbringings and lifestyles have been quite different, and Mel’s dedication to finding her friend allows her to form a strong relationship with Mary especially as she continues to investigate the subtle and overt details of Sheffield at this time. The shrewdness of this couple provides unquestionably the biggest shock of this set as well as the Doctor and Mel come to discover that McBride is not quite as defeated as they believe and that an act of empathy and goodwill in the face of brutal destruction can yield untold consequences when the smallest piece of information is unknowingly exploited for personal gain.

As an individual story, ‘Time-Burst’ is fairly unique and continues to blend more intimate and grandiose narratives to strong effect as individual everyday characters come into focus while McBride puts her careful scheme into motion. However, even with the return of Hebe in a world that has diverged far from what the Doctor and Mel know, it doesn’t quite do enough to maintain a strong sense of momentum throughout because of the many intriguing ideas that it presents but doesn’t necessarily fully exploit or explore. The performances are uniformly engaging with Bonnie Langford excelling in the historic Sheffield setting and Colin Baker highlighting the steadfast determination of his incarnation amidst the certainty of history and the uncertainty of his own present, but Purity Unleashed as a whole seems like something of a missed opportunity to truly showcase the threat of McBride, the first story being completely superfluous and the second and third stories likely able to be melded into one to form a much more concise and resonant tale to kickstart the fallout from the great cliffhanger from ‘Time-Burst’ that the next Sixth Doctor set will invariably explore.

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