Popping up in the Big Finish Day 3 weekend sale, A Death in the Family is a classic Seventh Doctor story written by Steven Hall (who wrote this, The Word Lord and some Gallifrey stories) and featuring Ace, Hex and Evelyn this story follows on immediately from Project: Destiny and is rated by almost everybody (The TimeScales rates it 9.4 with 101 votes as of the time of writing and Joe Ford on the DocOho review site gives it 10/10 – read his extensive spoiler filled review here).
This is such a rich story that I have to urge anyone who has yet to listen to it to stop reading and listen at once. If you are still here prepare for spoilers (though I will avoid some of the most major).
First the synopsis from the Big Finish product page:
“The future folds into the past. The homeless hero has fallen. Now begins the time of three tales: The Tale of the Herald, The Tale of the Hidden Woman and The Tale of the Final Speaker. When the last tale is told, all the lights shall fail. The world will end.”
21st century London: Nobody No One, the extra-dimensional Word Lord, is again running amok. Only this time, he’s unbeatable – and a terrible tragedy is about to unfold.
This artfully crafted tale starts with the death of the Doctor followed by the Doctor (as found in a coffin at end of Project: Destiny) sending Hex off to another world before vanishing. Meanwhile Nobody No-one (the Word Lord) is left free to wreak havoc. As if this wasn’t enough to confuse the listener we then have Ace and Hex spending a great length off time working through the plans of the Doctor (one instance of him).
Both Hex and Ace find romance, and indeed Ace (via the White Rabbit pub) ends up marrying and becoming Professor Dorothy Noone. As a more mature character (still looking after the neglected TARDIS) she eventually faces the Word Lord, restores the Doctor and then sends the Word Lord off to Hex / Evelyn.
There are many more layers to this story than I can list and describe and I have left out lots of spoilers – take it as read that this is complex yet accessible and also grand in scope.
Everyone turns in a great performance, Ken Bentley directs wonderfully and Sophie Aldred is tremendous. We even have an appearance from John Dorney taking a break from writing.
The Word Lord is also massively manic and the way that the Doctor is resurrected is brilliant. Atmospherically the scenes with the older Evelyn in her retirement (finally) are also very touching.
Why is it a Classic?
We have the Doctor dying then not, we have what happens next for Companions and we have a clever resolution. We have other things that also take the breath away and bring a tear to the eye.
Some people here and there don’t like the whole concept of the Word Lord – I say what about the Celestial Toymaker or the Elder Gods?
My only gripe was the way that Ace and Hex both found love (and in Ace’s case married) then abandon it when the Doctor returns. Apart from that I am one of the nearly 70% of people who gave this 10/10 on The TimeScales website.
Any thoughts? Can you find flaw in this story? Let me know!
Tony, March 2013