Review – Big Finish Doctor Who #13: “The Shadow of the Scourge”

This is the next in line of my Big Finish Productions Doctor Who retro-reviews.

#13 – “The Shadow of the Scourge” (Side Step)

From Big Finish’s site:

The Pinehill Crest Hotel in Kent is host to three very different events: a cross-stitch convention, an experiment in time travel and… the summoning of the scourge.

The Doctor, Bernice and Ace find themselves dealing with a dead body that’s come back to life, a mystical symbol that possesses its host, and a threat from another universe that’s ready for every trick the Doctor’s got up his sleeve.

This time, has the Doctor gone too far?

Written By: Paul Cornell

Directed By: Gary Russell


Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor); Sophie Aldred (Ace); Lisa Bowerman (Bernice Summerfield); Michael Piccarilli (Michael Pembroke); Holly King (Annie Carpenter); Caroline Burns-Cook (Mary Hughes); Lennox Greaves (Brian Hughes); Nigel Fairs (Gary Williams); Peter Trapani (Scourge Leader)

***minor spoilers ahead***

When you hear Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor tell an other-dimenional being that he surrenders the Earth on behalf of the Time Lords, the listener reaction is pretty much the one Ace imagines: it’s a bluff.  He’s got to be joking.  This is all part of the colossal chess game that the 7th Doctor is known to play.  And then when you learn that the chess game has failed, the entire story takes on a whole new level of dread and confusion.  How did it happen?  What’s the Doctor up against?  And what does it mean that the Doctor’s plan didn’t work?

As he describes it, the scourge are 8th dimensional beings who invade our bodies psychically.  Their world is essentially the geography of what we call Hell, and they have been identified as the demons of myth and mysticism.  So the Doctor is fighting against the opening of the gates of Hell and the onslaught of the demon hoarde.  No pressure.  Thankfully he’s got Ace and Bennie right there with him, one to offer guts and a never-say-die attitude, the other to offer snarky quips.  I’ll leave it to you to determine which is which.

The setup for this story is complete farce.  Even the Doctor has fun with it, before he realizes he’s in way over his head.  It pokes fun at the worst aspects of the New Age movement before pulling back the curtain to offer up the kind of bugs that you just can’t fight with space marines.  And worse still, it’s one of those stories that’s very difficult to describe any better than that without giving you all the spoilers.  The best description I can give you is this is the work of writer Paul Cornell, who is one of the best Doctor Who writers to ever have walked the earth, as well as the creator of Bernice Summerfield.  Click the link to learn more about him.  If you know the stories he’s written, you’ll have instant respect for the man and his work.

This adventure has the bonus of offering the casual Doctor Who fan a fun introduction to the character of Bernice Summerfield, who is also a long-running mainstay in the Big Finish line, and just for grins teases the coming of the 8th Doctor to the regular lineup.  Suffice it to say, this is one you have to hear to believe, because when trying to describe it, the idea is completely laughable.  When you listen to it, it plays out very well.