January 2013 brought us the two-disc release The Flames of Cadiz a pure historical tale from Marc Platt. Being January we not only had two discs but also two companions in the form of Susan and Ian Chesterton with both Carole Ann Ford and William Russell being in fine form.
Despite a lot of positives to this story, I ended up not really liking it; my views on this story overall are rather contradictory which is a shame. If you want a straight forward, detailed positive review that is well reasoned pop over to Doc Oho.
This is set in the early days of the show and this story is very much one that could have appeared in the first season or two. The TARDIS ends up in late 16th century Spain amidst war with England, persecution by the Inquisition and we have all sorts of opportunity to interfere with history.
Early on Ian is taken as a heretic, tried and sentenced to die by burning. We have some great scenes where Ian reflects on his life, his feelings for Barbara and his destiny. We also have the Doctor impersonating a Papal envoy and all sort of shenanigans before everyone ends up escaping.
All is not done, this is the time of war as well as persecution and we have the Spanish fleet and Sir Francis Drake (one of Ian’s heroes) to deal with yet. If that were not all the Doctor blames Ian and Barbara for interfering in history (as they are English) only to be put straight by Barbara. Susan gives us the viewpoint for this segment and conveys the story well.
By the end it transpires that history was not, in fact, interfered with, donkeys were ridden, windmills were attacked and burned and Ian learned that maybe one should not meet one’s heroes after all.
The usual superb acting from William Russell overshadows somewhat that Carole Ann Ford does a great job of providing the sweep of the story. They are two actors with different strengths that this plays to. Lisa Bowerman’s direction is as impeccable as ever and the audio side is wonderful with elegant place effects and the whole piece drips with atmosphere.
I got the end feeling that I had sat through an enjoyable Sunday afternoon film.
What’s not to like?
Unfortunately, sometimes I can’t turn off the critical centres in my mind. At two discs this felt a little long; some great drama for 60% then we turned to the central invasion / Drake segment. We also had a cheesy reveal in the coda which was well signposted en route but forgiveable.
Where I had problems, and I accept that they are my taste, was I felt this tried too hard to teach me things. I felt it laid on the ‘Spain vs. England, Catholic vs. Protestant, Inquisition, burning’ a bit too heavily. I almost felt patronised.
I also find myself conflicted – it was really nice to have a pure historical for a change (from memory 2012 just gave us Wrath of the Iceni and before that the main range had some years ago Angel of Scutari; there will have been a few others. I didn’t like the way Marc Platt chose to tell me the history of the time in the short argument between Barbara and the Doctor. It seemed too concentrated to me and could possibly have been spread across more of the overall story. Having threatened us with broken history why not have the Doctor and Ian try to fix in then have Barbara explain all later on?
As I said it is just me – no doubt I am in a minority in finding fault to the detriment of my enjoyment.
Someone help me out – what did you think of it?