‘Iron Bright’ is the latest main range adventure for the Sixth Doctor from Big Finish.
As a follow-up to ‘Lure of the Nomad‘ and a precursor to ‘Hour of the Cybermen’, this month’s outing for the Sixth Doctor is anything but the forgotten middle-child. Forging its own path with a pseudo-historical tale that’s sure to become a classic, ‘Iron Bright’ proves that author Chris Chapman deserves his place in the Who writer pantheon.
The Doctor finds himself in a tunnel and, with some investigation, learns he’s in a partially excavated part of the Thames Tunnel, 1828. The project was infamously dangerous and the Doctor soon finds himself coming face to face with industrial magnate Isambard Kingdom Brunel. But, of course, there is a problem. The tunnel is haunted by a blue spectre roaming the passageways and causing havoc. It will take the minds of the Doctor and Isambard and a few friends to put a stop to these problems and keep history on track.
Last year, Colin Baker got his oft-stated wish of a pure historical story in the form of ‘The Behemoth‘. Progressing that idea, ‘Iron Bright’ takes his Doctor back into history, but this time with a more celebrity-historical bent. Because of this, exact details on the period are thin on the ground. But it doesn’t matter because we are still immersed in the time period thanks to a flourish of characters who are very pleasing to listen too.
The Doctor is understandably starstruck to meet Brunel, who would go on to be one of the most influential engineers of the Industrial Revolution. Brunel is played by James McCallum who does an excellent job capturing a young version of the man. Isambard is keen to step out of his fathers’ shadow and McCallum plays on this beautifully. Brunel is played and written with a charming wit that is a great match for the bluster of Baker’s Doctor. In a story sans-companion, Brunel gives us some potential companion vibes. He is quick, ready to stand up for what he believes is right, even if it brings him into confrontation with the Doctor. He also isn’t afraid to speak up to the Doctor or knock him down a peg or two if he has to. McCallum has an excellent rapport with leading man Colin Baker and the pair feel like they have been rattling around the universe in the TARDIS for decades.
But Brunel isn’t the only possible companion in this story. His household servant Flo, played superbly by Becky Wright, gets plenty of moments to shine; coming across more as a companion in the 60’s vein. Smart, quick-witted and brave but isn’t afraid to admit she is scared or uneasy. Not forgetting Catherine Baily as Tan, a woman who brings with her an unexpected twist to the story. She is feisty, kind and quick on her feet, running into danger at the drop of a hat. In the final act, the four of them come together in a wonderful set of scenes that compliments each actor in the quartet.
Chapman has expertly engineered the script to suit the Sixth Doctor, a character Chapman has previously stated he enjoys writing for. He’s clearly having a ball giving the Doctor as much of the action as possible without under-using the other characters. Another staple of Chapman’s writing has come to the fore once more. ‘The Middle‘ concerned the way the elderly are treated in modern society, albeit with a sci-fi twist. ‘Iron Bright’ decides to look at issues like colonisation and air pollution with the detached context of science-fiction. Though some may perceive it as a “message show”, it’s entertaining enough and subtle enough to never feel preachy.
‘Iron Bright’ keeps its momentum to the end of the line. It goes without saying that Colin Baker is on fine form and has clearly relished the chance to work with some fresh faces in the cast. Chapman’s take on Brunel is a really well-rounded and thoughtful interpretation.
The direction is top-notch also, John Ainsworth matching the sound design to the pace of the script remarkably well. Background workers and dripping pipe form additional texture to the soundscape without ever causing a distraction. In both design and execution, this story is right on track.
Doctor Who – Iron Bright is available to buy now from the Big Finish website.
This title was released in June 2018. It will be exclusively available to buy from the BF website until July 31st 2018, and on general sale after this date.
It’s London, 1828, and the father-and-son team of Marc and Isambard Kingdom Brunel are masterminding a dangerous project – the digging of the Thames Tunnel. There’s just one problem…
The Brunels’ tunnel is haunted. Every night, a spectral blue lady walks the excavation.
Now, the 22-year-old Isambard, eager to step out of his famous father’s shadow, finds himself dealing with not only the supposed supernatural, but a second unexpected guest – a colourful trespasser who calls himself ‘The Doctor’.
Isambard would like to know a great deal more about this strange man and his mysterious blue box…
Written By: Chris Chapman
Directed By: John Ainsworth
Colin Baker (The Doctor), James MacCallum (Isambard Kingdom Brunel), Christopher Fairbank (Marc Brunel), Catherine Bailey (Tan), Imogen Church (Rispa / Lady Raffles), Becky Wright (Flo Hawkins / Alayna), Anthony Townsend (Richard Beamish / John Chubb), Sam Woodward (Charlie / Lord Raffles / Captain Sanderson), Richard Unwin (Tour Guide / Scientist). Other parts played by members of the cast.
Producer John Ainsworth
Script Editor Alan Barnes
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs