❉ After nine weeks of immense and intense drama, we come to the end of our journey with Cleo, Shawna and Abby…
Ten weeks ago we were introduced to the Blue Box Files gang, creating their own conspiracy theory podcast about this mysterious blue box that appears across all of time, and is followed by weird events. The weeks have flown by and it’s time for Doctor Who: Redacted – Salvation. It’s the end and the moment has been prepared for, but I’m not sure I am prepared to say goodbye to Cleo, Shawna or Abby!
The episode opens similarly to the debut episode, with the gang recording the podcast, and Cleo reasserting her belief that the blue box belongs to someone looking after us all. We jump back to modern day, Cleo has been redacted, she is in a rainy world that similar to our own, so much so that she doesn’t realise that she has been redacted and not everyone else. Floater talks to her, reassuring her that she is not dead. Everyone appears as ghosts to her, she calls to them to not touch her. Alone in the world, what can she do?
Suddenly, a familiar sound to us all can be heard, the whirring of the engines of a Type 40 TT Capsule, better known as a TARDIS. The Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) exits her ship, and is greeted by Cleo, who threatens the doctor with a bat she took from her mother’s flat. Cleo blames all the current events on the Doctor, who tries to reassure her that she is here to help. Cleo feels reassured, and takes the Doctor to the trans-dimensional beacon at the cafe they visited previously. The Doctor had travelled to a realm that had been raved about for years, from whence a life form that spreads through thoughts like a virus followed the Doctor back to our universe, which has caused the slow redaction of reality. The Doctor feels powerless, but will not stop until she fixes everything.
The Doctor tells Cleo that Rani has gone too, and that she doesn’t know why Cleo hasn’t been affected. When the Doctor lets Cleo go through her memories to find out if they had encountered one another in the past, it turns out that Rose Tyler used to babysit Cleo and her brother Jordan before Rose “disappeared”. Cleo then lets the Doctor into her mind, where she finds a psychic barrier; Cleo allows the Doctor to see what’s behind the barrier, a recollection of Cleo, aged six, showing her dad her den when she found a big red egg which started to hatch, which the Doctor refers to as the ‘Red Hatching’ – is this the same entity that the Tenth Doctor and Martha were battling offscreen during ‘Blink’?
With her mind unlocked by the Doctor, Cleo remembers that her dad tried to protect her but was killed, and the Doctor arrived moments later, saving Cleo’s life but too late to save her father. When Cleo’s mind blocked these memories, to protect herself from the grief, her mind blocked out the Doctor so well that she became immune to the redaction virus.
The Doctor takes from UNIT’s transdimensional kit a device called a delta wave augmenter (could it be the same one the Fifth Doctor constructed during the events of ‘Kinda’?) and uses it as a psychic interface so that she can speak to the Ghosts, calling them back ‘home’, to act as a vaccine against the virus.
The ghosts start to attack the Doctor, trying to pull her apart to use her as a portal back to reality. As she fades away she tells Cleo she has to make them all remember everything they have forgotten. Cleo uses the Doctor’s device to call for Cleo and Abby, and then starts to broadcast the Blue Box Files podcast through the transmitter, which isn’t working. The ghosts start to attack Cleo in the way they attacked the Doctor, then suddenly, there is silence.
Cleo ends up in another realm, it turns out she hadn’t been redacted, but everyone else had been. This realm is cold dead. She calls for the Doctor, but finds her mum instead. Her mum has found Jordan, who is freezing to death. Her mum apologises for being a bad mother, saying that she wants to make things right, that she was wrong for throwing Cleo out when she was 16, that if she could do it all again, she would do better.
Suddenly Abby and Shawna run to Cleo, and the reunited Cleo clocks that this whole realm is within their minds, as the virus is psychic; nothing they can see is real. Cleo pushes them to listen to the podcast which starts echoing in this world, she tells them to put mind over matter and follow the sound. Then silence.
Cleo reunites with the Doctor. Cleo tells her about what she has discovered. The Doctor decides it’s time to wake everyone from their psychic coma. They turn up the intensity of their broadcast of the podcast, and slowly people are returning to our reality, first her mum, then Jordan, Abby and Shawna. Cleo introduces the Doctor, the owner of the blue box, who plans to use the TARDIS to broadcast a new episode of the podcast, a special episode, calling them all to wake up. Helping to guide everyone back.
The Doctor tells them that they have a job to do, to speak truth to power but asks them not to mention her or the TARDIS on their podcast. As the Doctor prepares to leave, Cleo asks to go with her, but the Doctor explains that she cannot risk Cleo’s life – she has to save her friends, to battle with those who used the Redacted to cause chaos.
Jordan and his mum talk about how they feel funny, feel like they have been in a coma, feeling fuzzy. Their mum says she thinks it’s to do with 5G, and told Cleo to look into it with her podcast. Cleo’s mum apologises again, and says she doesn’t want to lose her again. Cleo tells her ‘That’s all I ever needed to hear’.
Abby and Shawna are talking about how they are already starting to forget the redacted realm. Shawna asks Abby if she could kiss her, making up an excuse, which Abby tells her she doesn’t need, saying that she broke up with her boyfriend and is single, saying she never needed an excuse to kiss her, so they do.
Later, the Blue Box Files continue their podcast, Abby has written a book on the history of the theory, Shawna is still sceptical, and Cleo is going back to stage school to become an actress. On the podcast, the group talk about the Doctor without naming her, referring to her as someone who is watching over us, looking out for us, someone in a blue box.
Back in Jordan’s flat, Cleo has been left a package with a card from Madame Vastra. She opens the box to find Floater, who now lives with Cleo, which could lead into future adventures for the Blue Box Gang, but for now, it’s goodbye.
This epic series came to a beautiful end, brilliantly realised by writer Juno Dawson and director Ella Watts, as well, of course, as the phenomenal cast. Over ten weeks their world has been affected by a psychic virus, while we the listeners have been allowed to fall in love with three powerful queer women, in a show led by powerful queer women, which is certainly something that you don’t get too often.
The acting throughout the series has been sublime, but a massive shout out to Charlie Craggs, who was an absolute powerhouse in this episode, in a role that was emotional and showed the wide range of her talent, I truly hope this series allows Craggs’ career to grow and bloom. The interactions between Craggs’ Cleo and Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor were so enjoyable to listen to, as the tension between them both at the start slowly grew into trust and then friendship. It broke my heart when Cleo asked to go with the Doctor, only to be turned down. When Big Finish get round to making Thirteenth Doctor audios, if we don’t get Cleo as a companion we riot yes?
While not in the episode much, the other cast members were also of course outstanding in their performances. Lois Chimimba and Holly Quin-Ankrah were as always stunning in their roles of Abby and Shawna, and it was beautiful to hear them finally admit their feelings for each other. You could really believe that Sarah Thom and Jacob Hawley were Cleo’s mum and brother, the dynamic mix of emotions and tensions between the three was as so real.
Once again the sound design was completely heightened by the amazing contemporary sci fi sound effects created by the brilliantly talented Arlie Adlington, and realised by the sound designer David Thomas. It would be great to hear what Adlington could do in a potential future series if given the reins completely.
In my interview with Ella Watts, the show’s producer (Click here to view: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Brc9E9kIAvM or watch below) Watts talks about how the show only had two weeks of pre-production once it got the green light, and while that is a challenge, I think it has worked in the show’s favour because this series could not have been cast any better, and I’m not sure if you can give audio dramas standing ovations but Redacted certainly deserved one.
This final episode wraps and up and answers all the questions we have had over these past ten weeks, and ends on a high note with the Blue Box Gang advancing in their lives, becoming authors and actors and living their best queer lives.
Queer women are always forgotten when it comes to representation, so it is amazing to get a series that is so full of women, that was created with a female audience in mind, and proves that you don’t need a male lead for something to be good or successful. But perhaps, the gang could be joined by a non-binary character should there be a secong series? Perhaps a Welsh non-binary queer person with a slight lisp… Ella you have my email, just a suggestion 😉
But now, we come to the end of our journey with Cleo, Shawna and Abby, and all I can say is thank you, to Ella Watts for pitching and creating the story, Juno Dawson and her fellow writers for turning the idea into scripts, and the actors for turning those scripts into the best piece of audio drama I have listened to this year. And to everyone else who has worked on the show, who never get mentioned, this series wouldn’t be here without any of you, so while I am but a humble reviewer and fan, I thank you from the bottom of my queer heart for everything you all have done to make this series a reality.
❉ ‘Doctor Who: Redacted’ is available to listen for free on BBC Sounds app and transcripts for those who are hard of hearing can be found on the ‘Doctor Who: Redacted’ webpage. Main cast: Cleo Proctor – Charlie Craggs, Abby McPhail – Lois Chimimba, Shawna Thompson – Holly Quin-Ankrah. Written by Juno Dawson. Produced by Ella Watts. Directed by Ella Watts and James Robinson. Executive Producer: James Robinson. A BBC Studios Production for BBC Sounds.
❉ Andrew Creak is a freelancer in TV and Film production based in South Wales. As well as this they are a producer director in their own right through their production company Third Time Lucky Productions. Follow them on Twitter: @AndrewCreak