Released in May 2006, The Settling by Simon Guerrier is a Seventh Doctor story with Ace and Hex as companions. Set in Ireland during a particularly bloody time in its history it also gives us Oliver Cromwell (Clive Mantle – Casualty, Holby City and Robin of Sherwood) as a foil. A lot of recent British history is not something to be proud of – how does this story tackle a difficult subject and entertain at the same time?
Back to the entertainment, Big Finish has this to say on the product page:
Note to Sir Arthur Aston, governor of the town of Drogheda, 10 September 1649.
“Sir, Having brought the army belonging to the Parliament of England before this place, to reduce it to obedience, to the end effusion of blood may be prevented, I thought fit to summon you to deliver the same into my hands to their use.
If this be refused, you will have no cause to blame me.
I expect your answer and rest your servant.
Hex is of Irish descent and the events of Cromwell’s campaign are known to him and he has a natural and emotional reaction to the whole situation. He ends up both fighting and being a confidante for Cromwell. The Doctor, Ace and Hex witness plenty of fighting and bloody atrocities though manage to find elements of humanity on both sides.
The great tragedies for the TARDIS crew are how little they can influence events, how easy it would be to get killed in war and how awful the situation actually was.
The story becomes a classic companion (Hex) is separated from the others to give us two perspectives on events then is re-united at the end. This sweeps aside lots of fighting, killing and beating that takes place. Simon Guerrier does find a human story in the middle of all this in the form of young Mary (Clare Cathcart) who is pregnant and gives birth in the midst of battle allowing us all to hope for a better future.
The story is well-chosen to bring out more of Hex and is framed as a set of flashbacks as Ace tries to help Hex come to terms with what he has experienced. Hex’s character is well-developed in this story and Ace manages to not take the fore too much but still has plenty to do apart from wading in with a weapon – as she says herself she is much older than the TV Ace we first met.
[pullquote]brought to life with supreme skill by Clive Mantle[/pullquote]
The Mary story makes this work and gives us connections to the awful events being played out. The star is Cromwell a very difficult character to write for without showing your own views and Simon Guerrier does very well in scripting a complex apparently irrational monster who can justify everything he does as being for the greater good. This is brought to life with supreme skill by Clive Mantle under Gary Russell’s direction and the result is a convincing character that the listener has no doubt could have been the actual figure from history.
We end up being informed and challenged and also learn more about Hex. This is one of the stronger releases and I recommend it to anyone choosing amongst the Big Finish back-catalogue.