The epic Purity arc ends with passion and fury, as the Doctor, Hebe and Mel fight to preserve humanity’s diversity and soul

Big Finish’s Purity trilogy comes to an end with Purity Unbound. It’s an appropriate name, echoing the Unbound range even as the three stories here bounce across three alternate universes. Because the increasingly unhinged villain Patricia ‘Purity’ McBride (never, let’s face it, particularly hinged in the first place) is proving her own worst enemy. Her tapestry of overstretched timelines is unraveling. And each attempt to create a ‘purer’ vision of the human race is more desperate than the last.

It’s risky to have an antagonist who is genuinely out of her depth, sowing the seeds of her failure as she goes. Especially when the Doctor mainly sighs from the sidelines about the pointlessness of the attempt. But it ultimately succeeds by giving the Doctor plenty to do regardless. His primary concern here is to ensure that his friends Hebe, Mel, and Elise emerge out the other side of the maelstrom in one piece.

Yes, after spending most of Purity Unleashed erased from existence, Ruth Madeley’s Hebe Harrison is back in the room. Hebe continues to be a testament to producer/writer Jac Rayner’s skill at crafting and developing compelling characters. In her introduction she was feisty to the point of being slightly obnoxious. But since then she’s quickly developed into one of Big Finish’s greatest original companions. All without redrawing any that original portrait, but instead by intelligently and sensitively colouring between the lines.


Girl in a Bubble sees Purity’s vision for the world made real at last, in a story that at last reunites us with Ruth Madeley’s magnificent Hebe

As revealed in last time’s cliffhanger, the resurrected Hebe’s not the woman she used to be. In Girl in a Bubble’s opening scenes of young Hebe’s childhood bedtimes, Rayner deftly and poetically set the scene for Purity’s newest, and so far most successful, attempt to reshape history. Reimagined as a skilled potter, she’s crafted a perfect world full of perfect people. But when she finds one misfired little clay girl she can’t bring herself to throw her away. So instead she places the little one in a bubble, safe from the dangers of the world that might break her.

We’re told this society is a web of improbabilities Purity holds together by sheer force of will. Even so, once we get out on to the streets it’s one that doesn’t make a great deal of sense. Perhaps Blogtor Who is just naive about how happily people would cosy up to a world built on eugenics and death camps so long as their bellies are full, or perhaps his Design Thinking training has made the idea of progress without diversity seem impossible.

But the real heart of the story here is Hebe’s realisation of what her supposed benfactor has done to her. How she’s stolen a life of adventure and experience from her. Madeley’s fierce performance powers Hebe’s raging against the loss as her fire and passion re-emerge from the passive, fretful version of herself. The returning Toby Hadoke provides admirable support as the alternate Ron. In a twist of dark humour his ‘real’ self’s ex-wife has assigned him to be Hebe’s carer. His talents underappreciated perhaps by nobody more than himself, Hadoke again shows how much truth and humanity he brings to characters.


Imogen Stubbs joins Bonnie Langford and the rest of the team as Professor Patricia McBride (c) Big Finish Productions
Bonnie Lagnford (Mel) and Imogen Stubbs (Purity) (c) Big Finish Productions

Mel, Hebe and Elise go monster hunting in The Corruptions, while the Doctor is trapped somewhere worse than Hell itself — the M23 Services

It’s Pease Pottage, but perhaps not the one you were expecting. In The Corruptions Mel, Hebe, and Elise are residents of the 1980s West Sussex village, a community populated by enough cosy eccentrics to rival Dibley. As is par for the course in this sort of scenario, though, their superficial contentment conceals nagging doubts. An unease that something isn’t quite right. And that’s before the horde of zombie Mels show up. Meanwhile, the Doctor finds himself trapped, Sapphire and Steel style, unable to leave Pease Pottage Services off the M23. Writer Mark Wright depicts the location with such seething disdain as Purgatory on Earth, you do wonder what hellish pit stop he must have spent there. The Doctor, at least, remembers who he is and sets out to break through and save his friends.

The Corruptions manages to provide a character based pause for breath between epic battles for all creation, while continuing to advance the arc. Purity shows up at regular intervals to monologue at the Doctor about her own invincibility. But even as she does so, the world she’s made frays at the edges. It also reminds us how brilliant, tough, and resourceful Hebe is as she and Mel investigate the phenomena besieging Pease Pottage. Meanwhile, Elise becomes a fully fledged member of this West Sussex Scooby Gang. One of the delights of Purity Unbound, in fact, is Cherylee Houston’s move towards centre stage as Elise.

Mel, too, is well served by a script that makes mischief with all the various discontinuities in her own history. It’s delightfully playful but, more than that, it’s a truly cunning inroad into the problem at hand. Absolutely charming stuff.


The Wrong Side of History trades one dystopia for another, as Purity’s dreams for the human race become ever more extreme in a worthy finale to the saga

The entire Purity saga comes to an end with The Wrong Side of History. It’s a story with such a perfect Doctor Who title that it’s slightly staggering writer Robert Valentine is the first to grab it for himself. But that’s not the only bit of genius on display here. The Doctor, Mel, Hebe and Elise find themselves in yet another new reality. This time dystopia comes in  THX 1138 flavour rather than Girl in the Bubble’s tang of Fahrenheit 451. Timid, weak-minded human beings cower below a sealed dome, terrified of, well, everything outside. But as they almost mindlessly go about their daily labour assignments, uncomplainingly submitting to euthanasia for the slightest infection, at least they have the required number of functional limbs, and a heterosexual orientation. And in Purity’s depraved mind, that’s all that matters.

Admittedly, a mid story plot twist may send you scrambling to Tardis Wiki for a quick reminder as elements from the very first set suddenly become vitally important. It’s a move which also slightly upstages Purity in her own finale. But despite the rather conventionally shouty gatecrashers, we never quite lose track of how we got here, or the real heart of the story.


Ruth Madeley,,BBC Studios,Alistair Heap Doctor Who 60th Specials
Ruth Madeley, who plays Hebe, also returns to Doctor Who on TV in November as Shirley Anne Bingham. Photo: BBC Studios,Alistair Heap

Purity Unbound successfully ties together the plots and themes of the Purity arc, with the final word going appropriately to Hebe herself

A lot rested on Valentine’s ability to satisfyingly sum up both the series’ plot and themes. It’s a task he accomplishes with some style. As if this nightmare world wasn’t enough to underline the horrible futility of her prejudices, Purity herself identifies the problem. Not enough purity. Not enough power. It’s a skillful essay on the fruitlessness of trying to meet hatred half way. To those given to McBride’s way of thinking and driven by disgust at the other, there will always be someone to other, no matter how homogeneous their surroundings.

The Doctor’s own viewpoint throughout the saga is also confronted. Throughout, he’s arguably been part of the problem. A stand-in for a certain sort of well meaning liberal, he’s spent a lot of time trying to appeal to McBride’s better nature, and trying to convince his friends that she’s just misguided. He even chides himself for not being more understanding and sympathetic to her bigotry at the start. He openly frets that it was his intolerance of her intolerance that made her double down. At times, listeners may have wondered what message we’re intended to take away, exactly.

So it’s appropriate that the final word on Purity’s legacy goes to Hebe herself. She shuts down the Doctor’s navel gazing with a quickness. Her passionate, intelligent speech on the true nature of radicalisation, as one of those whose life is literally on the line, is a high point of the set.. It brings the entire trilogy of box sets into balance and places them firmly on the right side of history.


Doctor Who: Purity Unbound. Cover by Claudia Gironi (c) Big Finish Productions Sixth Doctor Adventures Mel Bonnie Langford Ruth Madeley
Doctor Who: Purity Unbound. Cover by Claudia Gironi (c) Big Finish Productions

Doctor Who: Purity Unbound

The Doctor, Mel and Hebe are reunited – but Purity’s temporal meddling has altered history as they know it. To make matters worse, whatever is left of the being once known as Patricia McBride is still intent on fulfilling her grand design for humanity…

Doctor Who – The Sixth Doctor Adventures: Purity Unbound is now available to own as a collector’s edition 3-disc CD box set (for just £19.99) or download only (for just £16.99), exclusively here



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