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Faction Against Character Theft
This is definitely not a conventional Doctor Who story. Whilst that might not appeal to everyone, The Natural History of Fear was such a surprise to me that I found myself going along for the ride completely. I wouldn’t want a story like this episode or serial, but this one really worked as a one off and was a pleasant surprise after being underwhelmed by The Creed of the Kromon.
It does not take much to see that this is clearly inspired by George Orwell’s 1984 and similar stories about totalitarian regimes and Mortimore has given this an interesting twist by setting a society that has devolved to the point where citizens are simply referred to as proles and officials are referred to solely by their offices. This leads to some uncertainty as to which actor outside of the main cast is playing who, so I am exceptionally grateful to TARDIS Wikia for clarifying that for me! This just adds to how unusual the story feels and adds to the feeling of discombobulation I felt throughout this story. The state rules through an iron fist, stamping down on anybody who dares to ask a question, no matter how innocent, as we see the fate that befalls the female prole’s husband in the opening moments of the story. It is a state that demands complete loyalty and responses, as seen in the revision scene between the Prole and her Conscience. With the way that characters shift positions from Prole to Conscience to Editor throughout the story, Mortimore does well to keep us in no doubt as to who is in what position throughout the story, something that could potentially have been quite confusing.
Maybe the writers are getting lazy, reusing the same ideas. Lazy workers make poor product.The Engineer
We do become accustomed to the formula of the Doctor arriving on a planet, a crisis emerging and the Doctor resolving it before sauntering away in his TARDIS. However, part of what makes this story so unique is the fact that the Doctor and his companions have already left Light City some unspecified time beforehand. This element does contribute to the weakest element of the story, however, as it is revealed that Light City goes through cycles of gradual building up of pressure, leading to revolution and then the whole cycle begins again. All the Doctor does is accelerate this process, and this lacklustre twist means that the final part feels like a bit of a let down.
This story features tour de force performances from both Paul McGann and India Fisher who get the opportunity to play different roles than usual in this story. McGann is great as the Editor, who increasingly gets more and more deranged as the story goes on, dedicated to the tyranical state controlling Light City in his role as the Editor, as well as also having the Doctor who appears in the censored propaganda films of his adventures and briefly appearing in the concluding part. India Fisher is really good here too in her multiple roles – all eventually revealed to be the same character, with the exception of Charley – and even if she does get a lot to yell about, there are perhaps grounds considering what the state does to people who ask questions. If one of the TARDIS team are ill-served, it is certainly Conrad Westmaas, who has hardly anything to do here and is completely absent from the story’s third part. Considering that this is his first story as a fully fledged companion, we still have no strong indication of where this character is going or the developing dynamic between this trio due to the nature of the story. The story focuses in on McGann and Fisher, and whilst both are on top of their game, it would have been nicer to have given Westmaas more to do.
Verdict: A unique story which is only let down by a lacklustre twist at the end. McGann and Fisher are great in their varied roles. 10/10
Cast: Paul McGann (The Doctor/The Editor), India Fisher (Charley Pollard/Female Prole/Nurse 3/Conscience 2/Censor 2), Conrad Westmaas (C’rizz/Conscience 1/The New Editor), Geoff Searle (Voice of Light City/DJ), Alison Sterling (Sub-conscience/Certification Board Member 2), Seán Carlsen (Sub-editor/Certification Board Member 3/Citizen/Censor 1), Wink Taylor (Male Prole/Engineer/Fire Chief), Jane Hills (Broadcast Lodge Receptionist/Nurse 2) & Ben Summers (Nurse 1/Shipping Clerk/Trooper/Certification Board Member 1).
Writer: Jim Mortimore
Director: Gary Russell
Behind the Scenes
- The working title for this story was Pendulum.
- The theme music used for the Infotainment theme was originally used for the Audio Visuals, an unlicensed series of fan Doctor Who audio dramas, which were produced by a number of people involved in Big Finish.
- This is the only story in the Divergent Universe arc that does not feature the Kro’ka after his introduction in The Creed of the Kromon.
- A mention is made of Dark Rising, an unproduced story to be written by Mike Tucker, which would have featured the Seventh Doctor going up against Anthony Ainley’s Master. Tucker would go on to write Dust Breeding, in which the Master was played by Geoffrey Beevers.
- Alison Sterling also played Tarrith Koth in the next story, The Twilight Kingdom.
- Seán Carlsen is best known for playing Narvin in the Gallifrey range. He also appeared as a policeman in The Christmas Invasion.
- Jane Hills previously appeared in The Creed of the Kromon and would go on to appear in Faith Stealer, The Last and The Next Life.
I will destroy the revolution. I will stop the Doctor! And I will kill anyone who tries to stop me!The Editor
Previous Eighth Doctor review: The Creed of the Kromon