❉ With only a handful of characters to work with, Doris V. Sutherland’s episode deals with some personal and deep content, writes Andrew Creak.
After the shocking reveals of last week’s episode, we rejoin Cleo and Shawna in their mission to find out exactly what is going on in the world, and why people are going missing, as they head off to the Powell estate to see if Cleo’s mother is okay, Cleo having received a voice message from her where Cleo’s mum is inaudible, but the redacted noise can be clearly heard, leading them to wonder, could Cleo’s mum have been redacted too?
When they arrive Cleo talks about a trans woman, a musician, who lived in another block of flats on the estate. She then receives another voice mail, this time from her brother Jordan, who is also missing. She tries to call him back but doesn’t get through. Shawna says she has seen two distorted, ghost-like figures, as Cleo gets more and more voice messages from other people from her past, somehow coming through to the present.
As the ghosts appear outside the window, Cleo starts to film them as evidence, and then decides to call the police, telling them she fears that she is about to be killed. After the cop on the phone advises them to hide within the shop on the estate, he informs them that four officers are around the corner. Unfortunately, when two squad cars arrive and the officers exit their vehicles, they are redacted from reality and disappear in front of Cleo and Shawna’s eyes.
Fleeing the ghosts, Cleo and Shawna run from the shop, taking the lift to go to the tenth floor to Cleo’s mum’s flat and reach safety. They discover the door is unlocked, entering the flat to find it empty. Cleo discovers a message from her mum on the landline. Her mum informs her she is behind her, and when they turn around they see one of the ghosts. Her ‘mum’ asks for a hug, and Cleo moves to oblige, yearning for maternal affection after many years of neglect, while Shawna tries to talk her out of it, reminding her of what happens when the ghosts appear.
This was a subtle, nuanced, and beautifully done scene, with Cleo responding instinctively to the ghost claiming to be her mother, who has been dismissive and intolerant of her trans daughter.
Just as suddenly the woman from Requiem whom we met last week arrives and banishes the ghosts. Confused about what is going on, and unsure whether they can trust her, our speculations are confirmed that this is Madame Vastra (voiced by Doon Mackichan of The Day Today, Smack The Pony, Toast of London and Two Doors Down fame). Cleo and Shawna are unsure whether they can trust her, but in a trad cliffhanger the three of them escape by leaping out of the window.
This week’s episode was penned by Doris V. Sutherland, another new recruit to the Redacted writing team. With only a handful of characters to work with this week, Sutherland perfectly captures the voices of both Cleo and Shawna, in an episode which subtly deals with some personal and deep content. One thing this series has been great at is introducing fresh new voices in the Whoniverse, and I feel this is something that is going to help the franchise survive and thrive as we move through the coming decades.
While it is unfortunate that Neve McIntosh was unable to reprise the role of Vastra, the re-casting works well, and Doon Mackichan fully embodies the role. The change in voice doesn’t really come across as noticeable, even to the extent that when we first heard it last week, I was thinking to myself ‘this character sounds familiar’, which is not an easy feat.
The scene where Cleo calls the police felt a little off to me. For women and queer people, trust in the police is very low, especially within the trans community. Of course, this is not the view for the whole of the LGBTQ community, but I feel if Cleo had a hesitation in contacting the force, believing it was her only option, the scene may have come across more realistic and credible.
With only two episodes left – just under an hour’s worth of listening time – I do worry that we may get a rushed conclusion during the final episode. We haven’t had many answers to the questions we have accrued week after week. However, having Juno Dawson at the helm tempers my concerns somewhat. We can all agree that Dawson is an insanely talented writer and I feel the anxieties of badly-wrapped-up ‘Who’ content comes from the televised show in recent years, rather than what we have been given in this series so far.
❉ ‘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