Doctor Who: Redacted concludes with Salvation, as plot threads tie together in unexpected ways, revealing the story as not just a wild and fun ride (though it’s that too)
It’s all been leading to this. Doctor Who: Redacted concludes with the fate of the world on one young trans woman’s shoulders. But who can Cleo trust? And will she really follow the Floater’s instructions and kill the Doctor? The BBC Sounds drama has spent ten episodes building the mystery and offering listeners multiple red herrings. But how will it all come together in the end? Thankfully, the finale delivers a satisfying resolution that ties things together more neatly than perhaps expected.
Salvation starts with one of the neatest inversions of a cliffhanger reprise that Blogtor Who has ever seen, completely changing what you think you heard without cheating at all. But that doesn’t mean Cleo is out of the woods yet; far from it. She may be the last woman alive in London, perhaps even the world and to put it right she’ll have to stay alive long enough to do… something. But she’s not alone for long as a familiar wheezing groaning sound echoes across the Powell Estate…
Jodie Whittaker finally makes a full appearance in Redacted, with most of Salvation effectively a two-hander with Charlie Craggs’ Cleo
Yes, the Thirteenth Doctor is here at last! She’s made teasing little cameos throughout Redacted via voicemails and brief radio contacts. But Jodie Whittaker has a major presence in Salvation, and it’s largely worth the wait. It was always obvious the Doctor would ultimately be the one to explain exactly what’s being going on, and put in place any technobabble jiggery pokery needed to resolve it. And that’s certainly part of the role she plays here.
But there’s more to it than that, as after nine episodes of being told the Doctor’s either a god or a devil, Cleo has to make up her mind for herself. And it’s ultimately the Thirteenth Doctor’s trademark compassion and ability to find beauty in everyday people that saves the day. With these scenes likely the last Jodie Whittaker recorded as the Doctor (at least for now) it’s an appropriately inspirational way to close her era.
The series’ wander through a Who wonderland of fan service pays off as elements return to pay off in unexpected ways
The finale of Redacted also allows us the opportunity to put all ten episodes of the epic into context. In part it confirms the sense that the series was both putting the pieces of its own plot in place, and taking a slightly aimless sight seeing tour of the Doctor Who universe. But that’s always been part of the fun. So, no, the back references to stories like Smith and Jones and Partners in Crime, even to The Sarah Jane Adventures, don’t turn out to be of any importance beyond introducing the Blue Box Files team to the mystery and the Doctor’s possible role in it. But that’s all been part of the fun, seeing these events with the fresh eyes of outsiders. After all, Angels was the ultimate narrative cul-de-sac (Is it the Weeping Angels disappearing people? No.) but it was still a highlight of the series.
It also means other elements that do turn out to be rather important to the resolution of the story can hide more or less in plain sight. Pieces of Cleo’s backstory, and her growing up on the Powell Estate may have seemed like simple fan service. But they’re in the end revealed as vital cogs in the plot. It all adds up to a satisfying whole, random diversions and all. Though it is a shame that the original plans to have Donna appear were stepped on by the BBC for now obvious reasons. Her particular character arc dovetails incredibly well with what we find out about the Redaction in Salvation. It suggests that a Catherine Tate cameo would have been a lovely bit of foreshadowing as well as a casting coup.
Redacted leaves the Blue Box Files team with a perfect ending should this be the end, but leaves plenty of room for a sequel
As always in Doctor Who, it’s not exactly a spoiler to say the world doesn’t actually end. The day is saved by the Doctor and Cleo, most people forget what happened, and things go back to normal. And the Blue Box Files gang are back together and making podcasts. The mending of the bridges between them is one component that doesn’t quite sit right, admittedly. By the end of Salvation, Cleo knows there’s no truth whatsoever to her wild theory that UNIT murdered her father. And the project that Abby stays behind to help Osgood with not only saves all their lives directly, but plays its small but vital part in preventing the extinction of the human race. Yet, reconciliation comes from Abby profusely apologising for all the hurt she caused. There’s surprisingly no admission from the others that they were actually wrong all along.
It’s among the interpersonal plot threads that a second series for the gang might explore further, along how manipulative Shawna can be under the guise of being supportive. But will there be a second series? Redacted teases listeners up until the last possible moment about whether Cleo, Abby and Shawna even remember the story’s events. But with old/new Doctor Who showrunner Russell T Davies full of praise for the serial, and the story so well received, the signs are good.
Redacted has been a stunningly successful experiment, revitalising the world of Doctor Who on audio, and introduced narrative voices we need to hear more from
Redacted has been one of the most exciting things to happen to Doctor Who on audio for years. It’s fresh and excitingly immediate style has left like a leaf blower taken to the cobwebs. Doctor Who: Redacted represented a step into the known for BBC Sounds, and those who commissioned it deserve huge credit. Hopefully we do hear more of the Blue Box women’s unique view of the Doctor Who universe.
One of the series great strengths too, has been walking that curiously difficult line in its LGBT representation. In a way, it’s been aspirational and inspiring, by not only having a trio of variously bi, lesbian, and trans women as its leads, but making that absolutely not a big deal. But it hasn’t allowed itself to live in a fantasy land where problems of misogyny, homophobia and transphobia simply don’t exist. As with recent television phenomena like Heartstopper and Sex Education, the BBC Sounds podcast, focuses less on the battles ahead in a world under threat, and more on reminding us what we’re fighting for. And what is the essence of Doctor Who if not that?
But whether it’s in the form of a direct sequel with these characters or not, Juno Dawson, Ella Watts, and the team of writers they’ve assembled in Catherine Brinkworth, Sasha Sienna, Ken Cheng, Doris V. Sutherland, and David K. Barnes, are voices we absolutely must hear from again. In the form of more audio dramas from BBC Sounds or Big Finish, to be sure. But on the strength of Redacted, one or more of them have surely also earn a slot on the television incarnation too.
Doctor Who returns later this year for the Thirteenth Doctor’s final episode…