The Secret History reviewed

The Secret HistoryHooray! The main range has reached #200! This means the end of the Locum Doctors Trilogy and we (hope to) find out why various incarnations of the Doctor have popped back into their own past. This time the Fifth Doctor goes back to his earliest days and meets up with Steven Taylor and Vicki. This is also a tale set deep into history, unlike the other two stories (Defectors and Last of the Cybermen).

What happens, was it any good and does the trilogy work? WARNING — massive spoiler included.

Let’s find out!

The story

As Big Finish says on the product page:

The TARDIS brings the Doctor, Steven and Vicki to the Italian city of Ravenna in the year 540 – besieged by the army of the celebrated Byzantine general Belisarius. Caught up in the fighting, Steven ends up on a boat bound for Constantinople, the heart of the Roman Empire.

Rescuing Steven, however, is the least of the Doctor’s problems – because he shouldn’t be mixed up in this particular adventure at all. Someone has sabotaged his own personal timeline, putting him in the place of his First incarnation… but who, and why? The truth is about to be revealed – but at what cost to all of the Doctors, and to the whole future history of the planet Earth?

The inevitable ‘who are you’ sequence is dealt with swiftly and the TARDIS crew deal with the local politics in Ravenna and try to protect the timeline as this is a difficult era for human history with the Roman Empire trying to re-form itself. There is a strong historic story going on that soon draws the characters into difficult situations and facing alien infiltration in Constantinople. The Doctor then has to face his true enemy, who I will just call Z for now. Z has been interfering in the Doctor’s life several times; the previous two were trial runs, this time Z will make the Doctor interfere in history, come to the attention of the Time Lords and be erased, allowing Z to take over his existence. This is all thanks to the strange powers of Sophia, played by Lysette Anthony. 

[pullquote]an authentic feeling First Doctor story[/pullquote]

This all happens, and we then revisit the whole story from a new perspective with Z as the Doctor. Meantime the real Doctor gets a chance to put things right, faces up to and gets a chance to put it all back together. The net effect is an authentic feeling First Doctor story with a complex, modern time-twist. An excellent construction.

The storytelling

Barnaby Edwards should be congratulated for the direction and the whole cast praised for making this work. Steven in particular gets a lot to do and Peter Purves is completely convincing as he deals with various vagaries of history. Vicki is also well used, and there is little not to like.

The trilogy

An odd trilogy on the whole, with all the work done by the final story. This makes a change from going through the Doctors in normal order, but I do still feel it left the previous two stories flawed (and that beyond the flaws in the Last of the Cybermen). A worthy exercise, and roll on the next 200 releases!


Who is Z (Spoiler)?

Full mark to Big Finish, as Z is The Meddling Monk, played again by Graeme Garden. This is a very strong idea, well realised and entirely convincing. I still feel disappointed the previous two parts didn’t go anywhere, but this is brilliant.

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