Doctor Who: Redacted reaches the halfway stage, and the point of no return for Shawna, Abby and Cleo
Episodes 4 and 5 of Doctor Who: Redacted bring the BBC Sounds audio drama to the halfway point. And if the women of the Blue Box Files podcast are no closer to the answers they seek, by the end of these episodes they at least know what the question is.
Angels takes the story exactly where you’d expect with that title. The plague of disappearances across the UK has moved on to a new phase. The numbers of the missing continue to spiral out of control. But more than that, the media have stopped reporting on them and the police stopped investigating them. Worse, to the bewilderment of Cleo, Abby and Shawna, all records that the problem even exists have begun to vanish. Whether it be yesterday’s newspapers, or police reports, someone or something is systematically altering the evidence. How can the world defend itself from an escalating attack that only three young LGBT women with an obscure podcast even know is happening? Abby finally has an idea about what might be behind the vanishings. Because there are stories of a house called Wester Drumlins, and statues that make people disappear forever. Statues of weeping angels…
Angels takes the atmosphere of Redacted into deeper shades of darkness as shadowy forces stalk the friends amid the Glasgow Necropolis
These episodes are written respectively by Catherine Brinkworth and Sasha Sienna, the first Redacted writers other than Juno Dawson. Fortunately the maintain the same high standard of dialogue that’s somehow both full of wit, yet naturalistic.
One of Redacted’s other strengths continues to be resisting the urge to make our hapless heroes companions in waiting. They don’t immediately jump to the right conclusion first time, every time, or show uncommon bravery or curiosity. Rather, the Blue Box Files team react to these events like people who live very much in our world. With Abby walking into danger in Glasgow, London based Cleo’s immediate concern is how to find the train fare. It’s the sort of concern that’s typically too petty to trouble regular Doctor Who. But it’s also totally relatable.
The nature of that danger seems steeped in real world concerns too. Abby has set up a meeting with a possible source of information but, even compared to similar scenes in 2005’s Rose, Cleo and Shawna’s alarm at their friend going to an isolated Necropolis to meet a strange man already connected to the disappearances of two women feels timely. That contact turns out to be none other than Larry Nightingale, once more played by Blink’s Finlay Robertson. Pleasingly, his appearance here acknowledges and builds on his role in last year’s brilliant interactive mobile episode The Lonely Assassins. The scenes of something unseen stalking the gang is very effectively done. There are tense scenes as Cleo senses an intruder in her flat and when the girls find themselves alone in a middle of the vast Necropolis.
Interrogation sets the stage for Redacted’s second half as new threats and new allies emerge and battlelines are drawn
This balancing act of being able to achieve real tension and dread despite the characters’ instincts for quips and banter continues into episode five, Interrogation. Shadowy paramilitaries taser our trio and hold them prisoner in a dank basement. But Cleo breaks free from her cable ties in a move she learned from TikTok, launching a diversion about social media algorithms. (Cleo’s feeds pushing her to material on surviving transphobic attacks, Abby’s towards ‘Great Reset’ style conspiracy theories). Interrogation is where the team cross the point of no return, with no prospect of backing out. It’s also where it becomes clear why, out of all the Doctor’s allies, it’s the Blue Box Files at the centre of Redacted.
At this halfway point, the narrative has satisfyingly flipped from our heroes flailing around at a mystery much bigger than themselves, to them taking the lead towards finding a solution. We now know first hand what these disappearances involve, and what triggers them. And there’s a familiar face on hand to help drive events forward with greater resources to throw at the problem now that Cleo holds a key piece of the mystery. The various red herrings and cameos so far have been fun and cool enough. But it feels like the real battle for the Earth is just about to get started. It all promises an exciting escalation of the pace and drama of Redacted as it continues this Sunday.
Doctor Who: Redacted continues on Sunday on BBC Sounds