Big Finish Review: Doctor Who - The Home Guard

Big Finish Review: Doctor Who - The Home Guard

The first of two releases from The Early Adventures range this month, The Home Guard reunites Frazer Hines, Anneke Wills and Elliot Chapman for a wartime story influenced by classic sitcom Dad’s Army, but one that reveals a darker heart beneath for the Doctor, Jamie, Polly and Ben.

The Home Guard is written by Simon Guerrier and directed by Lisa Bowerman. The four-part story is available from the Big Finish website until general release from January 1st 2020. Here's the synopsis...

It’s the middle of the Second World War and Ben Jackson has returned to visit his married friends Polly and Jamie in their quiet English village. But they can’t quite shake the feeling that something’s not right...

The Review

The Home Guard blends themes of wartime horrors and pathos, nostalgia and the domesticity of country life, alongside reams of science-fiction conflict and a quietly menacing (and almost-new) incarnation of the Master.

Simon Guerrier’s writing, particularly early on, is precise and beautiful without being verbose or overly sentimental. There is a slow but steady pace by which hints are given to something being wrong; he builds the mystery piece by piece with complex plotting.

Frazer Hines and Anneke Wills, in inhabiting their original roles of Jamie and Polly alongside Elliot Chapman’s Ben, are always the highlight of Second Doctor Early Adventures. The fictional, alternate lives of these well-drawn characters as depicted here does not unrealistically deviate from the established personalities and habits of either character, which, more than simply showing the strength of the writing, is a testament to the two enduring characters.

This story is made all the more meaningful as it serves as Chapman’s final appearance as Ben, according to an announcement on his personal Twitter account. Through stories such as The Home Guard, Chapman has truly shown his embodiment of Michael Craze’s original role and is to be commended.

Putting aside all other considerations and looking purely at the performance, this incarnation of the Master is quiet and unsettlingly malevolent, but with a certain charm that recalls Roger Delgado’s understated menace that erupts into open evil. Despite the Master not being present for much of the tale, his hypnotic tendencies are in full force; fittingly so, given the disturbing undertones of this incarnation.

Conceptually, by inverting the Doctor’s and the Master’s conventional roles as hero and arch-villain, Guerrier shows a clear understanding of Doctor Who archetypes – and how to disrupt them – even if the bumbling Second Doctor doesn’t not always convince as the ‘bad guy’.

Ultimately, The Home Guard proves less of a homage to Dad’s Army in the strictest sense, and more of a science fiction-themed representation of a planet’s home guard forces engaging in unnecessary warfare – and the result cost to the community. That being said, the scenes in the story’s second half portraying this conflict are not as strong as the first half’s focus on home life and character.

Despite those minor drawbacks, a creepy atmosphere, evocative setting and intentional writing combine for an all-too-soon farewell to Elliot Chapman as Ben, with reliably enjoyable performances from Anneke Wills and Frazer Hines to boot.

Extras

The music suite appended to the end of the story itself is dominated by sixties-era synths delineate the wrongness of the domestic setting in which the Doctor’s companions find themselves. The score also captures the Master’s malevolence with many low, vibrating strings. The blending of these two tones – often within 30 seconds of the other – is what makes this score stand out.

The trailer for Daughter of the Gods gives little plot away beyond the presence of the Daleks, but the focus here is the match-up of two Doctors and the seemingly impossible reappearance of ill-fated companion Katarina.

Interview tracks reveal: Simon Guerrier’s exploration of nostalgia during the 1960s as part of his research; the description of his own writing process as making things “less bad”; Chapman’s admiration for Guerrier’s meaningful writing; and various other insights into the production.

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