Big Finish Review: Doctor Who Short Trips - The Revisionists
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Last month saw Big Finish's Doctor Who content off to a strong start. We had the Big Finish debut of Kamelion in Fifth Doctor story Devil In The Mist (catch our review here), and the Fourth Doctor gained a new companion for series eight (check out our review here). River Song encountered Missy and three other incarnations of the Master - including in a first, Eric Robert's version (check out our review here), not to mention volume three of The First Doctor Adventures, which we'll review shortly.
But it was also momentous for the first meeting of Louise Jameson's Leela with the iconic Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart in the opening Doctor Who short trips of the year, The Revisionists. Written by Andy Frankham-Allen, the writer and script editor of the Lethbridge Stewart novels from Candy Jar Books, whom we interviewed back in 2017, and directed by Lisa Bowerman, this 42 minute story narrated by Jameson herself brings to life a new adventure featuring the Brigadier, Leela and the Fourth Doctor and is available to purchase at the Big Finish site here.
Baz Greenland (aged 37)
Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart is one of Doctor Who's most iconic characters; sadly the passing of Nicholas Courtney in 2011 meant that he is one classic character that has been missing from the expansion of Doctor Who storytelling for Big Finish in recent years (though he did reprise the role for three audio stories between 2000 and 2003). So it was a joy to see him recreated and brought to life in a short and sweet tale of the Brigadier's encounter with the Fourth Doctor and Leela, a companion that never actually crossed paths with the infamous UNT leader in the television series.
Louise Jameson brings a soft-spoken but thoroughly engaging quality to the story as she narrates this iconic meeting in an 'Otel' in Switzerland. She perfectly brings to life not only the fierce and wonderous nature of Leela but Baker's booming Doctor and the Brigadier's crisp, grounded tones, as they make their acquaintance and encounter the ghosts of their ancestors.
Writer Andy Frankham-Allen's fondness for not just the Brigadier (for which he has written extensively), but also this classic era of Doctor Who, shines through, capturing the essence of both of these characters perfectly. It's also a wonderful opportunity to delve deep into the Brigadier (and Leela's) ancestry as they are faced with the the ghosts of their ancestors. The writing adds depth to a character that had a very closed personal life on screen for the most part, and enriches him; there is a sense of shared regret over military service taking both the Brigadier and his ancestor away from his friends and family, demonstrating that service and honour go way back further than this current UNIT officer.
Given that this is a short trip, the mystery is simple but effectively done, the aliens stealing the memories of the hotel's guests to build a new collective memory for their own race following the destruction of their world. The role of the Doctor is limited and effective, serving as the catalyst for how the whole 'threat' is resolved. The focus here really is the team up of Leela and the Brigadier.
The core theme of the story is legacy; the ancestry of these characters and the show itself which continues to delight fans in onscreen, audio and written form. The legacy of the Brigadier, Leela and the Fourth Doctor lives on in The Revisionists, giving fans a tale that we were never afforded onscreen.
This was a lovely tale of the meeting of two significant characters in Doctor Who lore recreated superbly through the voice of Leela herself, Louise Jameson. While it's a shame we'll never get Nicholas Courtney to continue playing the Brigadier in future Big Finish tales, there was certainly a little something of Courtney's magic recreated here.
Ben Greenland (aged 12)
It seems about time for Leela and the Brigadier to meet. They have proved fan favourite characters and it's a perpetual confusion as to why this pairing hasn't happened until 2019! But now it's here and it didn't disappoint.
Cleverly, the story keeps the Doctor out of the equation for the first, half to fully flourish a relationship between these very different mind sets - a savage and (retired?) soldier. It intercuts between Leela and the Brigadier's perspective detailing their thoughts on the same scenario. The concept is simple yet very effective. Apparitions of past relatives appearing and talking to you, then vanish taking with it all memory you ever had of this relative. This is where the different viewpoints are cleverly realised, with each character's take on the other losing the relative.
We know when we get to the second half that the Doctor has also been visited, but by who, isn't explained; it's a shame we didn't see as it would have made for a very interesting five minutes or so. Mainly though, the Doctor takes a backseat for this story, leaving the chemistry between Leela and the Brig to develop. When the menace is revealed, it turns out they aren't evil at all, just going about saving their race's history, albeit in a not very good way. It's easily sorted though, with the Doctor helping the aliens, leaving time for a very nice last conversation with Leela and the Brigadier.
Overall, a very entertaining and, in a way, very heartfelt story about memories and what defines us. A very entertaining 42 minutes that gets the short trips range for 2019 of to a very promising start...