Written by Paul Magrs
Starring Peter Davison, Janet Fielding & Sarah Sutton
Lost in the smog of the Industrial Revolution, the TARDIS crashes in 1819, four miles south of Manchester, in the grounds of Hurley Hall – a grand mansion belonging to a local factory owner, a proudly self-made man. But while Hurley dreams of growing richer still his servants hope only for a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. His young maid Cathy is looking forward to joining the peaceful working people’s protest in St Peter’s Field, however, the city’s establishment have called in their own private militia, to control the crowd. One of the darkest days in Manchester’s history is about to unfold – and the Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan are right in the thick of it.
Seldom do Big Finish, or for that matter the televised incarnation of Doctor Who produce a “pure historical” story. Some adore these rare departures from aliens and monsters and others dismiss them as ‘not-real-Doctor-Who.’ Writer, Paul Magrs presents The Peterloo Massacre as one of the darkest, most bleak and sombre tales in all of our time-travelling Gallifeyan’s history; and does so without the Master or the Daleks, without undreamt alien weapons of destruction or timey-wimey plot points. This tale does one better and achieves this feat using only real events; with the only aliens being the Doctor and Nyssa.
Whilst the massacre at the working people’s protest in St Peter’s Field is not an historical event with which many will necessarily be familiar, it acted as an important turning point in equal rights and proves to act as a fitting backdrop for a dramatic Who story.
The Doctor and his companion’s reactions to the events at Peterloo show an as yet undiscovered side to these characters. We see a more emotional, less composed Nyssa and possibly the most angered response from the Fifth Doctor when reacting to the consequences of the massacre. The other stand out performance comes from Hayley Jayne Standing as Cathy. These three give particularly impressive turns amongst the high calibre of the recurring and visiting cast members who manage to find the light and shade in a largely disastrous and depressing tale.
The inevitability of this ‘fixed-point’ in history only adds to heighten the stakes and make the inescapable outcome of this massacre that much more harrowing. Even nearly 200 years later the injustice that took place in 1819 still feels acutely relevant today.
The drama is first rate, the performances wonderfully realistic, Magrs and Big Finish prove that the Doctor doesn’t need aliens and monsters to tell a compelling and historical yet relevant story.
BLOGTOR RATING 9/10
‘… some of the most beautifully haunting vocal led music that I’ve ever heard from Big Finish… Peter Davison’s portrayal of the Doctor in this story is absolutely stellar… It really knocked me for six like no other form of Doctor Who ever has… I highly recommend you listen to this story.’ GallifreyArchive
“They say there’ll be thousands pouring into Manchester tomorrow. From all over the county, north and south. It’ll be a piece of history. People will remember this!”
Lost in the smog of the Industrial Revolution, the TARDIS crashes four miles south of Manchester, in the grounds of Hurley Hall – a grand mansion belonging to a local factory owner, a proudly self-made man. But while Hurley dreams of growing richer still on the wealth of secret knowledge locked up in the Doctor’s time and space machine, his servants hope only for a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. His young maid Cathy, for instance, whom Nyssa learns is looking forward to joining the working people’s march to St Peter’s Field, in the heart of the city. There’ll be speeches and banners and music. It’ll be like one big jamboree…
Or so she thinks. For the city’s establishment have called in their own private militia, to control the crowd. One of the darkest days in Manchester’s history is about to unfold – and the Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan are right in the thick of it.
Written By: Paul Magrs
Directed By: Jamie Anderson
Peter Davison (The Doctor), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Janet Fielding (Tegan), Hayley Jayne Standing (Cathy), Robbie Stevens (Hurley), Gerard Kearns (William), Philip Labey (Thomas Tyler), Wayne Forester (Walton/Roberts/Rev Small), Liz Morgan (Mrs Hurley/Sister). Other parts performed by members of the cast.
Producer: David Richardson
Script Editor: Alan Barnes
Executive Producers: Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs