The new Seventh Doctor audio drama from Big Finish follows on from the last month’s ‘A Life of Crime’. ‘Fiesta of the Damned’ drops the Doctor, Ace and Mel in the middle of the Spanish Civil War. And of course, they find themselves stuck on the losing side.
But it’s not just bombs that the TARDIS trio and the soldiers they tag along with have to dodge. Someone’s been giving the dead a genetic makeover and an attitude adjustment.
If you listened to ‘A Life of Crime’, you won’t be surprised to hear Bonnie Langford’s Mel back. But she’s not as front and centre this time. Langford is by no means underused in this release, but she operates in much more of a traditional characterisation slipping back into Mel’s typical persona.
But where Mel may lack the momentum of last month, the character of Republican soldier Juan Romero gets a wonderfully performed examination of a weary soldier who knows he’s already lost the war. His conversations with Sylvester McCoy’s Seventh Doctor serve as a commentary on the people in the footnotes of history.
The story moves slowly with the first episode lacking in any real monster elements. The eventual appearance of a character with leprosy cleverly parallels the villain and serves to get the characters reflecting on the threat.
As ever, Big Finish have done a terrific job creating a soundscape that draws you in. The way the monsters are being described makes it clear that Big Finish are putting a lot of imagination into creature design.
This is definitely one of Big Finish’s more sedate entries. Fans of corridor-running knockabouts may feel the pace a little slow. But it’s breathing space that is well used to properly establish the characters. The concise, satisfying character arc for Juan was the highlight of an otherwise good but somewhat by-the-numbers story.
Blogtor Who Rating – 7/10
In search of “a taste of the real Spain”, the TARDIS transports the Doctor, Ace and rejoined Mel not to sizzling Fuerteventura, or the golden sands of the Costa Brava – but to 1938, amid the horrors of the Spanish Civil War.
Having fallen in with a rag-tag column of Republican soldiers, the time and space travellers seek shelter from Franco’s bombers in the walled town of Farissa – only to discover themselves besieged by dead men returned to life…
Written By: Guy Adams
Directed By: Ken Bentley
Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Bonnie Langford (Mel), Sophie Aldred (Ace), Enzo Squillino Jnr (Juan Romero), Christopher Hatherall (George Newman), Owen Aaronovitch (Antonio Ferrando/Control Unit), Tom Alexander (Luis/Phillipe). Other parts portrayed by the cast.