The Doctor and Peri land on the planet Naxios, where they discover the body of a reptilian Father Christmas. Who killed him? The strange individuals dressed in Shakespearean costumes or the talking waist-coat clad animals working in the tunnels?
Blood on Santa’s Claw kicks off a Christmas story boxset for the Sixth Doctor, Peri and her boyfriend, Joe. This mixes some interesting themes with lighter moments, which does give it a bit of a wobbly sense of tone, but it is a good listen.
This story has some interesting ideas at its core. The TARDIS has landed in the 59th Century, where organised religions have collapsed after science has proven every miracle to be possible. This leads to the Earth government decreeing that any belief in anything is a valid belief system and power is doled out to those beliefs with more followers, leading to this story’s central conflict between those following Shakespearean texts and those following Wind in the Willows. The disputes caused by this new system are arbitrated by a group called The Creed, a group described a “crack squad of psychotic Santas” and it is one of these who the Doctor and Peri find murdered in the tunnels of Naxios. The new belief system is well fleshed out in this story’s runtime, giving the listener enough information to understand the system well. The story is almost Classic Doctor Who down to a tee – the Doctor and his companion help the enslaved Ratty, Mole and Toad against Iago, Cordelia and the Witch – but this sub-plot adds something a bit more interesting. Followers can believe in anything they want, from television programmes to pop stars.
The tone of this story is probably the weakest element – having Santa Claus and characters from Shakespeare and Wind in the Willows does give this a heightened atmosphere and there are elements that make this feel a bit like a pantomime. After all, this is a story in which the Doctor and Peri dress up as Santa and an elf respectively! This all contrasts with the more serious subject matter of religious conflict and persecution. The Shakespeareans have forced the animals to work in their mines and as their followers have augmented themselves to become the actual animals from The Wind in the Willows, they are dehumanised and tortured by the ruling class and only counted as two-thirds of a person. Whilst this adds to the intrigue of the story, the juxtaposition can be a bit jarring, especially in the lighter moments.
I’m not in shock, I told you. I can do this, I just…I’ve got a thing about tunnels.
Well, that’s what we do, Joseph. We explore, we go down tunnels!
I just…don’t like tunnels, okay? I’ve got a thing about tunnels, I had a bad incident in Wookey Hole. I can get over it, just not today.Joe Carnaby and the Sixth Doctor
Whilst this is the first adventure we have with Joe, he takes a backseat here, allowing Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant to really shine. The new addition to the TARDIS is not entire welcomed with open arms by the Doctor, with some seeming jealousy creeping in that there is someone else in Peri’s life other than him. It seems obvious to say but the scenes with Peri and the Doctor together feel really comfortable and they have a strong relationship. The exchange when they discuss how the Doctor introduces the TARDIS trio is really good, as it implies how uncomfortable he is with the change in dynamics. He has sussed Joe out as not being companion material, despite this only being their third adventure in the TARDIS, and, like the Tenth Doctor later would when Mickey briefly travelled with him and Rose, labels him as Peri’s responsibility. Bryant gives as good as she gets, and the bickering between them is more in tone with their other work with Big Finish rather than what was seen on television in the 1980s. Whilst he is not in a lot of this story, Luke Allen-Gale comes across as quite affable, maybe a companion in the mould of Harry Sullivan rather than other companions like Ian.
Verdict: Blood on Santa’s Claw is a good opening story for this set, with an interesting idea at its heart. It is let down by an uneven tone, but Baker and Bryant do a good job here. 8/10
Cast: Colin Baker (The Doctor), Nicola Bryant (Peri Brown), Luke Allen-Gale (Joe Carnaby), Heather Bleasdale (Cordelia), Cliff Chapman (Iago), Steven Elder (Rudolph), Dawn Murphy (Ratty), Roger Parrott (Toad) & Becky Wright (Mole/Witch).
Writer: Alan Terigo
Director: John Ainsworth
Behind the Scenes
- “Alan Terigo” is the first of three pseudonyms for writer Nev Fountain, a play on alter-ego. The reason for this will become clear.
- Joe refers to having encounter difficulties whilst filming in Wookey Hole. Doctor Who filmed in Wookey Hole for Revenge of the Cybermen, where they also encountered problems.
- Steven Elder previously appeared in Jubilee and Something Inside, as well as playing Siy Tarkov in Dalek Empire.
- Dawn Murphy previously appeared in Antidote to Oblivion.
- Roger Parrott previously appeared in The Settling, as well as making appearances in Gallifrey and Iris Wildthyme.
- Becky Wright previously appeared in The Rani Elite and Ironbright, and would go on to appear in Plight of the Pimpernel.
You know, Peri, I’m getting quite comfortable in the red velvet. Perhaps I should get rid of “the coat” and keep this ensemble.
I never thought I’d say this, but keep the coat! I’ve got used to it.The Sixth Doctor and Peri Brown
Blood on Santa’s Claw and Other Stories is available from the Big Finish website.