Shadow of the Past reviewed

Shadow of the past cover smallApril 2010 and Caroline John reprised her role as Liz Shaw in the Companion Chronicles. This was a Third Doctor tale called Shadow of the Past by Simon Guerrier and also starring Lex Shrapnel (also appeared in Jago & Litefoot) as Marshall. Why has Liz Shaw come back to UNIT?

The story

The Big Finish synopsis tells us:

There’s a secret locked up in UNIT’s Vault 75-73/Whitehall. Dr Elizabeth Shaw is the only one left who knows what that secret is.

Returning to UNIT for the first time in decades, she slowly unravels the past. The vault contains the remains of a spaceship that crashed in the Pennines in the seventies.

For the young Liz Shaw, the priority is to ensure the thing’s safe. But the Doctor is more concerned about the alien pilot. And the chance this ship offers for escape. Can he resist the temptation, or will the Doctor turn on his friends?

The story appears to be simply conceived: an alien ship is investigated by UNIT, the Doctor gets replaced by a shape changer, there is betrayal, a shoot-out, alien invasion and then we get a slight deus ex machina intervention from the Time Lords.

Behind all this is the budding relationship between Liz and a young soldier that amounts to nothing and is connected to why Liz has returned to a UNIT vault many decades later. The real story is a moving tale of identity and humanity.

The storytelling

Simon Guerrier does a good job of taking us in one direction then twisting our take on the story right at the end. This makes a solid if unremarkable tale into one that stays in the memory and leaves you asking ‘what happened next?’

Lex Shrapnel’s soldier gets the last line and it is delivered with a gentleness of touch in keeping with the whole piece. Overall this is a very satisfying story and up there with Simon’s best.

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