The heroes of Doctor Who: Redacted may have split up, but their different paths lead them ever closer to answers… and danger
BBC Sounds’ ten part drama Doctor Who: Redacted continues with two more episodes, Requiem and Ghosts. The Blue Box Files podcast crew may have been fractured by the event of Recruits, but they’re still moving closer than ever to getting the answers they’re looking for. But that also brings them closer and closer to danger.
Slightly surprisingly, these two episodes focus squarely on Charlie Craggs’ Cleo and Holly Quin-Ankrah’s Shawna. Lois Chimimba’s Abby appears in only a couple of scenes. But they’re intriguing moments that push the narrative into a more conventional Doctor Who shape. Doubtlessly that’s partly due to the presence of Abby’s new friends, Osgood and UNIT. Certainly their use of Big Science Stuff to track a potential source of the disappearances and peek beyond the veil for clues, along with the moral questions of what to do about, feels like being back on familiar ground. But it’s our first hint of the revelations and resolutions that must surely come in the next couple of episodes.
‘Requiem’ hits emotionally truthful notes that Doctor Who rarely reaches as those left behind reach out to each other
But Cleo and Shawna’s own investigations into the growing mystery ensures we don’t wander far from Redacted’s unique appeal. Replying to an ad that hints at knowledge of the disappearances, they find themselves in a Zoom meeting with the mysterious ‘Requiem’ and her support group for the friends and relatives of the missing. It’s one of the most affecting scenes in Redacted so far and a real expression of the series’ greatest strengths.
Doctor Who has been a master of grand, operatic tragedy on both television and audio for decades. But it’s rarely touched on the impact of these world threatening events on regular people so well as in Juno Dawson and Àjoké Ibironke’s script. Some of Requiem’s group don’t understand why only they remember their missing relatives. Others are terrified as they feel the details of people they used to know starting to slip from their own minds. Still others can’t escape the ever-present sense of someone missing, even if they don’t know who or why.
These episodes once more highlight a skilful understanding of the complexity and ambiguity of interpersonal relationships. Cleo’s speculations about UNIT’s involvement in her father’s death are pretty wild and unfounded, but her hurt at Abby rejecting those theories in favour of working with UNIT is real. While Shawna is unfailingly supportive of her friends… or is subconsciously creating codependence? After all, her first instinct is always to ferment division between her friends and the others in their lives.
With Ghosts Redacted moves back onto more familiar Doctor Who territory in more ways than one
In Ghosts, the pair’s investigations also lead us towards seems like a climax for Redacted. Cleo’s finally cottoned on to the pattern that seems to be triggering the disappearances. What’s more, whatever’s responsible for the redactions has recognized the Blue Box women as a danger. More than that, it seems to be actively hunting them. And Requiem, whomever she may be (and the script doesn’t do much to conceal her identity), might be a woman with the answers we’ve been seeking.
The action takes us all the way back to the spiritual home of the 2005 Doctor Who revival: the Powell Estate. It also demonstrates another of Redacted’s most lovable traits – its deep fondness for some of the lesser known corners of the Who universe. In Angels it was folding the events of mobile phone game The Lonely Assassins into Larry Nightingale’s backstory. And in Ghosts some of the best details of the Powell Estate in Russell T Davies’ Target novelisation of Rose form some of Cleo’s childhood memories of the place. (Not that you’d expect anything less from Ghosts writer, and top tier fan, Doris V Sutherland.)
It also involves Cleo and Shawna in direct danger and facing monsters for the first time. The ‘ghosts’ of the title are effective Doctor Who monsters, creepy and deadly. Meanwhile a series of baffling phone calls steps up the eeriness to levels worthy of Steven Moffat. Best of all it gives Redacted its first proper cliffhanger-scream-worthy cliffhanger. Will Cleo, Shawna and Requiem survive? Well, let’s hope so. After all, these aren’t the Doctor and her companions. Technically, anything could happen.
The episodes of Redacted so far have been of variable length, from 18 to 27 minutes. With a lot to cover in the final two parts, fingers crossed for some bumper length instalments the next couple of weeks.
Doctor Who: Redacted continues on Sunday on BBC Sounds
The story continues each Sunday, with Doctor Who: Redacted available via the BBC Sounds website and app, free worldwide. Complete scripts are also available on each episode’s page for accessibility. All episode so far available now.