Big Finish are ending an arc and potentially even an era with their latest monthly adventure, Warlock’s Cross. In this story we conclude the Daniel Hopkins trilogy started back in The Helliax Rift and we have a one-off with everyone’s favourite Nazi supporter, Elizabeth Klein. Is this the end for Hopkins and/or Klein?
It’s the early 1990’s and UNIT is desperately close to ending. After events that took place in Hour of the Cybermen Daniel Hopkins isn’t the man we first met. He’s imprisoned and could be a vital part in bringing UNIT to its knees. Klein is also not the woman we first met in Colditz. Now she’s the scientific adviser for UNIT and, though still not the sweetest character, she’s come a long way from when we first encountered her years ago. Just last month the 7th Doctor concluded a trilogy with Ace and Mel. Here he is again doing his part to right wrongs, or at least see another trilogy end.
This isn’t a silly Seventh Doctor
Warlock’s Cross is a complicated story that starts off going one way and ends up in a different direction. It’s difficult to discuss the plot, not because there isn’t one but because the focus will switch and the character interactions are what’s integral. This is something writer Steve Lyons does very well. It’s a serious piece with a tone that doesn’t have many peaks or valleys. It finds its footing early on and keeps its pace and mood in stride.
If there’s one complaint to be made it’s that the jeopardy doesn’t have much gravitas. In a story that concludes a three Doctor story arc as well as the long-awaited return of Klein, it could have used higher stakes. On the other hand, it is more about character relationships than impending doom.
Big Finish are consistently impressive with their ability to make each audio drama enjoyable as a standalone story and Warlock’s Cross is no different. If you haven’t heard a Klein story, or the previous Hopkins tales, many blanks are filled in as the story progresses so this should still work for new listeners (This reviewer isn’t fully caught up on Klein and, as of yet, hasn’t heard Hour of the Cybermen).
Fuelled by strong performances from the cast, the acting is superb. Blake Harrison continues to bring depth to Hopkins which is much-needed for a character who is emotionally defeated. Despite being mostly monotone Harrison still finds ways to make us sympathetic to Hopkins. Tracey Childs as Klein is always a joy. She’s by far one of the most successful reoccurring Big Finish characters. This is thanks to great stories, strong performances and an undeniable chemistry with Sylvester McCoy.
The real McCoy. What more can be said about how powerful his performances can be. Even if he’s “not your Doctor” one couldn’t refuse how great he is here. Confident yet vulnerable, serious yet still a twinkle in his (unseen) eye. The duality he brings is always great but here he’s so good in a lower key that he could almost go unappreciated.
What happens in post, stays with listeners
The post production is vital in creating our audio experiences and Simon Power grounds us firmly in a world we can imagine. The music is good but it’s his sound design which is most engaging. Director Jamie Anderson must have had a clear vision and seen it through to completion.
This is a wonderfully executed drama. The performances are honest, the sound design and music are strong and the direction is very balanced. It’s an interesting story which unfolds slowly and deliberately with less focus on action and more on character. If you’ve been following Klein or Hopkins, this is essential listening. If you haven’t been following these characters, you should be fine to enjoy this story but it’s recommended to have at least some background on them.
It’s time the truth was told. About UNIT. About the Cybermen invasion. About the so-called ‘Doctor’. About what happened all those years ago, at Warlock’s Cross. About the man they keep locked up in a cage, in a secret prison…
It’s time. Because UNIT scientific adviser Elizabeth Klein is going to help ensure the truth is brought to light.
Today’s the day… that UNIT falls.
Written By: Steve Lyons.
Directed By: Jamie Anderson.
Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Tracey Childs (Klein), Blake Harrison (Daniel Hopkins), Genevieve Gaunt (Linda Maxwell), Richard Gibson (Colonel McKenna), Tom Milligan (Gregory Lord), Russ Bain (Lieutenant Colonel Lewis Price). Other parts played by members of the cast.
Producer: Nicholas Briggs.
Script Editor: Alan Barnes.
Executive Producers: Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs.