The August 2017 main range release The Blood Furnace sees the Seventh Doctor, Ace and Mel take on a strange corporation in Eddie Robson’s story set in the 1990s. It’s a slightly odd story but scratch the surface and you see how well constructed it is, even though (perhaps) it is a little frustrating.
The Blood Furnace story
First the product page blurb:
The TARDIS brings the Doctor, Ace and Mel to a recently reopened shipyard in Merseyside. It’s 1991, the hardest of times – but now they’re shipbuilding once again, thanks to the yard’s new owners, the Dark Alloy Corporation. A miracle of job creation – but is it too good to be true?
While the Doctor and Ace go in search of an alien assassin at loose in the yard, Stuart Dale, discoverer of the near-magical Dark Alloy material, has an extraordinary proposition to make to his old college friend, Mel.
But who is the Corporation’s mysterious client? Who does she really represent? And what’s the secret of the Blood Furnace? Seeking answers, the Doctor and friends are about to find themselves in very deep water…
It’s a good setting, and Stuart (Todd Heppenstall) is a well drawn character, and his past connection with Mel gives a pretext for her to get involved and find out some of what is happening with the Corporation. The character of Carolyn (Julie Graham) is very well performed and has no redeeming qualities which works. The core story involves that sub-genre called technomancy, making The Blood Furnace one of the more original of recent main range releases. Eddie uses this to both add mystery and also provide a credible (if weird) rationale for events.
A deep plot is uncovered, and not every character gets a happy ending, something reflecting a darker tone than we sometimes get. There’s reference to old civilisations, alien races and great wars, and while the setting of 1990s Merseyside is clearly drawn, the story shies away from making cheap political points,
The Blood Furnace storytelling
At times the characters were a little bit Brookside; with talk of Rozzers ( ie policemen) and a general feel of laying the location on a bit thick. The story also had some loose ends. I’m divided on this point as I do think sometimes writers are too tidy with stories and real life isn’t so neat. This isn’t the same as just losing a major character midway through the story in fairly dull circumstances.
I also felt Stuart Dale’s relationship with Mel failed to drive enough of the drama, and her vacillating ‘take the job’ ‘stay in the TARDIS’ thread failed to convince.
I’m also mixed on technomancy, but do feel Eddie Robson did an excellent job in this story of making it seem both impossible and internally consistent. Perhaps this was at the expense of fully exploiting Mel or Ace, perhaps though he was merely taking a less easy road with each of them.