❉ A welcome return for the trio of The Seventh Doctor, Ace and Hex.
The TARDIS Team of Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor, Sophie Aldred’s Ace, and Philip Olivier’s Hex is one that’s been relatively scarce in recent years. In fact, I believe the last time we’ve seen this team in action was in 2017’s The Shadow Planet/World Apart (and before then 2014’s Signs and Wonders), so it’s been a while. But has the wait been worthwhile?
The Flying Dutchman by Gemma Arrowsmith is a very safe story. It’s a very low-key story featuring what at first appears to be an abandoned ship, but only appears so because the crew are afraid of another attack from the mythical Flying Dutchman. It’s certainly an enjoyable story, but even for a two parter it feels very slight on plot.
The central mystery of what the Flying Dutchman actually is, and the resolution, is quite unusual for a Doctor Who story of this nature, and that alone sets The Flying Dutchman apart from its compatriots. The story almost feels more like a Saturday morning cartoon than a Doctor Who story, and I wish the author had played into that more. Arrowsmith is a comedy writer, and there’s a distinct lack of comedy in The Flying Dutchman, which is a crying shame. As it stands, this is a solid story, though maybe needed a few changes to make it work better as a Doctor Who story.
Displaced by Katarine Armitage is an interesting story. The idea of Doctor Who having an evil Siri/Alexa (in the form of Hari) was almost inevitable by now. The fact it’s only a small part of a touching story about life with the Doctor is, frankly, sublime. In contrast to the previous story, Displaced fits so much into its short run time, it’s a miracle it works so well. This is a story that takes full advantage of this TARDIS Team, and hearing the three characters interact in such an evocative setting is wonderful. The Doctor, Ace and Hex never meet any of the other characters in the story outside Hari, but you get such a profound sense of who they are, and how they lived, it’s so wonderful. This a story with depth, and it’s such a joy to listen to. Although there’s a slight oddity of dating (the story is set in 2020, in the middle of the countryside, and yet Hex, who comes from 2021, talks about how this whole place would be flats in “his time”, which seems odd when his time is just a year away), but that’s just a tiny nitpick, solely mentioned to make long-time listeners of the seventh Doctor, Ace and Hex feel old. Displaced is a fab story, a true gem.
As a whole then, The Flying Dutchman/Displaced is a bit of an unbalanced set of stories, one with not much story in it, and the other packed to the brim. Both stories are very enjoyable, although it’s this reviewer’s recommendation that you space out listening to the pair, for maximum enjoyment. A worthy set to bring back this classic team. Welcome back Hex, let’s not leave it so long next time!
❉ Doctor Who: ‘The Flying Dutchman/Displaced’, now available to own as a collector’s edition boxset (on CD at £14.99) and as a digital download (at £12.99) exclusively from www.bigfinish.com.
❉ Stephen Brennan has been writing for fanzines and charity anthologies for some time. A writer by day, a game developer by night, they can be a bit of a grump, but with a mischievous twinkle in their eye that lets you know they aren’t all bad.