Martin Day has written lots of Doctor Who novels and some Bernice Summerfield for Big Finish but to date his single foray into Big Finish Doctor Who has been No Man’s Land. This is a Seventh Doctor story with Ace and Hex set in France during World War I. Enough preamble – what’s it about and is it any good?
Let’s pop by the Big Finish product page:
It is 1917 and the Doctor, Hex and Ace find themselves in a military hospital in northern France. But the terrifying, relentless brutality of the Great War that wages only a few miles away is the least of their concerns.
The travellers become metaphysical detectives when the Doctor receives orders to investigate a murder. A murder that has yet to be committed…
Who will be the victim? Who will be the murderer? What is the real purpose of the Hate Room? Can the Doctor solve the mystery before the simmering hate and anger at Charnage hospital erupts into a frenzy of violence?
The TARDIS crew are in Charnage hospital; they have been found suffering from the effects of am artillery attack and the Doctor is comatose. This is all window dressing and soon we find that the Doctor has orders which have arrived and ask that he investigates a murder yet to happen.
The hospital is for recovering soldiers and uses a psycho-therapy treatment that is tantamount to brainwashing. This is all under the aegis of Lt Colonel Brook whose only aim is to improve soldiers to be better at the cold-blooded art of combat.
As the plot progresses Hex gets subject to the treatment, the Doctor faces a firing squad and Ace leads Hex out in to No Man’s Land to a church that has a pivotal role to play in the story. At some cost the Doctor wins through but not until he has discovered that the whole thing is a project run by The Forge!
Having just listened to The Settling and greatly admiring Angel of Scutari it seems to me that the combination of Hex, Ace and the Seventh Doctor are at their best in the middle of wars. You might also add Ace in Colditz to the mix. The character divide between this Ace and young Ace from TV is well portrayed as is the relationship to Hex. Hex is splendid and definitely evolves across the stories. Now I have heard most of his stories (if not all) I now understand his story a lot better than I did.
The link to The Forge is of passing interest though not necessary by any means. The whole piece is redolent with atmosphere and Michael Cochrane shines as Lt Col Brook. This is one of the very best releases and I am disappointed that I didn’t realise this before I picked it up in a sale simply to complete my collection.
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Glad you liked this one – it is one of my all time favorite Big Finish releases and I think it was this story more than anything that led to me holding the Ace/Hex/Seven team in such high regard. I do agree that the Seventh Doctor is at his best in a war setting (as opposed to the equally frequent insane asylum setting that is so rarely done well).
It only struck me mid-way through this story. I think the McGann Doctor does well in this setting (eg Klein’s story and some of the novels / Big Finish stuff). I also read at least one Seventh Doctor Book this year where the Doctor / Ace worked really well. Not that I don’t rate the others in this setting just that there seems to be an extra layer with the Seventh.
I must ponder this further…