The final Seventh Doctor audio drama from this run of Big Finish Monthly Adventures is available. Titled ‘Subterfuge‘ and although not an inventive title, it is very apt. With the two previous Sylvester McCoy led stories being somewhat, event based audios, ‘Subterfuge‘ was bound to be the underdog. Thankfully, it’s not a competition.
‘Subterfuge’ does have its share of eventful characters with the Monk and Winston Churchill are head lining this drama. Although it doesn’t match modern day Ace or return to ‘The Psychic Circus‘ event levels. Not for this reviewer anyway. Instead, ‘Subterfuge‘ relies on its plot and characters to engage the listeners and managed to successfully do that for me. As someone who doesn’t overly engage with spies, espionage or even Winston Churchill, this still pulled me along and kept me keen to see where it would lead.
The setting is 1945 and Churchill is looking for re-election after the war. He has, unbeknown to him, The Meddling Monk working as his adviser. When The Doctor shows up he has to stand, somewhat, against Churchill. This makes for some interesting interactions and plot development as we’re all used to Churchill and The Doctor being chummy.
There’s a b-plot in here as well and that’s where things become more interesting. I won’t discuss any details here because I found that each time my mind might start to wander, this part of the story would pull me back in. It may have even been the performances more than the plot (oh, that Helen Goldwyn can sure spin a yarn!) because every time Mimi Ndiweni would speak, I was hypnotised.
The Best Cast
Recently Big Finish’s social media had asked something along the lines of, had listeners ever developed a crush by voice alone. Affirmative. Ndiweni. Her cool and calm demeanour at the beginning, clearly withholding something, was intriguing. However, as we learn more and her character is challenged she’s positively gripping. Every word and sound was so genuine and honest I… I don’t even know how to express how engaging she is. It’s hard to believe it’s just a person in a booth because the screams and emotion were all so honest. I hadn’t realised it was Ndiweni until hearing the behind the scenes.
All of the performances are incredible though. McCoy knows when to ham it up and when to be grounded and he was very down to earth here. It helped lay the foundation for this more serious story. Of course, the one and only, Rufus Hound is able to showboat that little bit harder as The Monk without going too far over the top. Hound is always exquisite! Director Samuel Clemens continues to impress with his casts and the results he gets.
The cover art, though beautifully done, is a bit distracting. Rufus Hound doesn’t quite look like his usual self. His likeness here reminds me of Kate McKinnon doing one of her American political figures on Saturday Night Live. Otherwise it’s another lovely layout by Simon Holub. Besides, if one character is meant to stand out as odd, it’s Hound as The Monk.
Steve Foxon continues to do fantastic work with both sound design and music. His music for ‘Subterfuge‘ is spot on. It gives weight to what’s happening and accentuates the drama. That’s not to undercut his sound work. There are some nice details in here and anytime a voice is felt moving across the room in my headphones you can count me tickled pink!
After adoring the last two McCoy stories I was prepared to be underwhelmed. But this odd mixture of historical spy drama managed to pull me in and make me care about the characters and outcomes. The production is excellently executed straight through from script, to direction, performance and post production. Business as usual really. It was unlikely that I wouldn’t enjoy this story despite my lack of interest in subject matter. The Seventh Doctor and Hound‘s Monk are two of my personal favourites. I just hadn’t expected to be as invested as I was. I believe this will be a story I visit regularly and recommend often.
If this sounds like an adventure for you, head over to the Big Finish website to purchase your copy.
London, 1945. Winston Churchill campaigns for re-election. His new strategic adviser assures him that Britain has a bright future under his continued leadership. It’s a vote he can’t possibly lose. But the Doctor knows that he must.
The Monk is meddling, altering history for his own selfish ends. With spies and aliens in the mix, Winston realises victory may not be so simple. But at least he can trust his old friend… can’t he?
- Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor)
- Ian McNeice (Winston Churchill)
- Rufus Hound (The Meddling Monk)
- Brian Capron (Lesley Kulcade)
- Jonathan Forbes (Policeman / Mugger / Broadcaster / System)
- James Joyce (Secretary 2 / Landlord / Borstal Boy / Driver)
- Philip Labey (Edward Dowan)
- Mimi Ndiweni (Alicia Dowan)