November was a real treat for us Big Finish fans, though our wallets may hate us! We had the brilliant ending to the latest Fifth Doctor trilogy which saw the return of the Cybermen, the return of the Lost Series range which gave us two unmade television adventures for the Sixth and Fifth Doctors and the First and Second Doctors met in a brilliant, and heart-breaking adventure, with Katerina and the Daleks. And we also got another face-off between the Doctor and the first incarnation of the Master, with Ben, Polly and Jamie caught in the middle.
Just reading the synopsis on the Big Finish website will tell you that things aren’t what they seem in The Home Guard. Polly and Jamie are married and living in a quiet English village when Ben gets some leave he comes to visit them. But none of them seems to know who they are to the Doctor, the man who seems to be in charge of the small village. Why are Polly and Jamie married? Why is Ben coming back from the war and who is the strange man who seems to be trying to convince them all that the Doctor is working for the Nazis? Author Simon Guerrier asks these questions and then some throughout this great outing.
Guerrier has always been great at writing early outings for the First and Second Doctors but he seems to have really made a name for himself in more recent years for the stories he has written for the Second Doctor, Polly, Ben and Jamie. The Yes Men and The Outliers are great and entirely original ideas for a Doctor Who adventure and The Home Guard is no different, with Guerrier keeping the secrets of the story under wraps well into the second half of the adventure. It’s a great way to layout a story, the listener is just as confused and intrigued as the main characters and we find out things at the same time as those characters.
Guerrier’s handle on the sixties period is second-to-none and it’s hard to imagine that this isn’t the soundtrack to a lost adventure, its that good. Guerrier also has a great handle on how the Second Doctor’s first TARDIS team should sound like. It’s not difficult to see Troughton, Wills, Hines or Craze delivering any of the lines here. And as long-term readers will know, I’ve always loved these Second Doctor adventures and I’m pleased to see that Big Finish is still giving this era of the show such love and attention.
Frazer Hines plays both Jamie and the Second Doctor and with each release, his impersonation of Patrick Troughton gets better and better. Anneke Wills is also on double duties here as both Polly and the narrator and she makes sure that the story really moves along, she’s a great narrator and I could listen to her reading out anything! And Elliot Chapman continues to really impress me as Ben. Chapman is fantastic at the role originally played by Michael Craze and he’s really got the character down to an art form now, it’s impossible to tell the difference between Chapman and Craze and he’s been a great addition to this team, allowing Big Finish to finally give us some brand new full-cast audio adventures for the Second Doctor. I hope he stays with them for a very long time!
And what of the Master? Well, it has been over two years since we last heard James Dreyfus in the role with the First Doctor tale, The Destination Wars. What I really like about this incarnation is that he’s not completely crazy like the other onscreen incarnations. Don’t get me wrong, he’s ready and willing to kill people, were first introduced to him here as he kills someone trying to run away. And Guerrier really seems to enjoy teasing the appearance of the character, we’ve got some musical cues that are very reminiscent of the Delgado tune and the use of the Tissue-Compression-Eliminator. And the immortal line, “I am the Master. And you will obey me,” rightly ends the first episode.
And another note on this Master not being as crazy as his next incarnations, it is refreshing that the character doesn’t just kill characters for the sake of it. He gets his fair share of kills in here but he isn’t afraid to manipulate others into doing it for him. But what was really interesting was that he stopped the more-evil take on the Doctor from killing his friends. There were a couple of moments where things looked hairy for Polly and Jamie and yet the Master didn’t let things go too far. Could it be that this incarnation of the Master actually likes some of the Doctor’s friends? It’s certainly an interesting look and take on the character and I’m looking forward to hearing more from this Master in next year’s Seventh Doctor story, The Psychic Circus.
The Home Guard is a completely unique Doctor Who story that somehow seems perfectly suited to this TARDIS team. I can’t see any other characters playing these roles that the Doctor, Ben, Polly and Jamie play here. Lisa Bowerman has done another fantastic job here as director, really making the most of the cast and the script and the whole package is something that is pure magic.
The Home Guard will join The Yes Men, The Forsaken, Resistance and The Night Witches as one of my favourite stories from this TARDIS team and I’m happy to say is one of my favourite Big Finish releases of this year. It’s dark, mysterious, fun, full of twists and turns, has some great performances from the main and guest casts and its powered by a strong script and tight direction. The Home Guard is a triumph in every way!