Brightly Shone The Moon that Night

If this is heaven, then someone’s made a real screw-up with the paperwork.

Shreela

Synopsis

The TARDIS crew encounters a shameful secret of the Time Lords. History has been rewritten, and this time, it’s all the Doctor’s fault.

Review

After some plot threads were pulled together in the previous story, we are finally at the culmination of this anthology. With the Doctor unwittingly releasing the Were Lords, we finally get answers to the mystery behind why the TARDIS has been landing in the 59th Century in these adventures, as well as filling in some of the backstory surrounding Peri’s partner, Joe, including how they met, and brings back characters from the first two parts of the story.

I wrote about the consequences of the Doctor’s actions in the previous review and here it is revealed how his actions in the previous stories have led to this point. His interference on Naxios led to weapons not being produced using the planet’s living silver to fight the Were Lords, and the destruction of the Ishtar Institute meant that the rejected embryos, who were sold to the military, were not developed into soldiers designed to fight them. Combined with the events onboard the Tate Galactic in the previous story, the Doctor is manipulated into the role, but I think it makes the character of the Doctor stronger. It is important that the Doctor does not become an infallible hero, always making the right decisions for the greater good, as it makes him (or her) more relatable. It is particularly effective when the incarnation in question is Colin Baker’s Sixth Doctor, who is at times more confident and arrogant that some of the other incarnations that came both before and after him and this story and anthology in general does seem to take some wind out of his sails.

I quite like the concept of the Were Lords and the fact that they are the origins of the myths and legends of werewolves on Earth. They are Gallifreyan soldiers used to fight in the Vampire Wars and who fled. With the ability to regenerate, they certainly feel like a worthy foe and as in this last story, Steven Elder does a great job with Lycaon. The Were Lords plan to use the belief system to ensure that they subjugate the Earth by creating a climate of fear, which is a clever call back to the belief system in the first part, and I quite liked the way that the Doctor eventually defeats the Were Lords, using the ability to regenerate between forms against them.

I’ve spoken about how Peri is at the fore of these stories and, with this story focusing in on the Doctor making mistakes, it is important to note that Peri has also made an error by allowing Joe onto the TARDIS. Here, we find out that he is also a Were Lord, who has posed as Peri’s partner in order to allow his race to break free of their captivity. This reveal helps to answer some unsolved questions, such as why Joe wasn’t more involved in these stories. I must admit I felt a bit slow when it was revealed that he was a Were Lord, having missed the fact that he was unable to go down into the caves on Naxios due to the silver, although my suspicions were aroused when he was unable to go through a mistletoe-garlanded arch in the previous part. There are some particularly powerful scenes between Peri and Joe here and both Nicola Bryant and Luke Allen-Gale do a good job here. Allen-Gale shifts his performance slightly following the reveal and is less fawning and more unpleasant, which worked really well, and the scene between the two in the airlock is particularly memorable, and Bryant is also superb when she meets the incubator robots representing her children, aged to 25 years old, which is a lovely way of rounding off the unanswered question of what her children would be like as grown-ups left dangling in The Baby Awakes.

Verdict: Brightly Shone The Moon That Night provides a satisfying conclusion to this collection of stories. Nicola Bryant particularly shines here. 8/10

Cast: Colin Baker (The Doctor), Nicola Bryant (Peri Brown), Luke Allen-Gale (Joe Carnaby), Steven Elder (Lord Lycaon), Louise Kempton (Selene), Dawn Murphy (Ratty/Cordeline), Becky Wright (Mole/Shreela/Janey), Roger Parrott (Toad) & Cliff Chapman (Robot Attendant/Paul).

Writer: Nev Fountain

Director: John Ainsworth

Behind the Scenes

  • All four stories in Blood on Santa’s Claw and Other Stories were written by Nev Fountain. The pseudonyms were employed to throw people off the scent of an audio anthology.

Best Quote

Doctor, are you okay?

Of course I’m not okay! Arent’ you paying attention? If what they say is true, this is too horrible to contemplate.

It’s not your fault. They manipulated you.

Well, they didn’t need to. They just wound me up like a clockwork solider and marched me into battle!

Peri Brown and the Sixth Doctor

Other Stories in this anthology:

Blood on Santa’s Claw

The Baby Awakes

I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day

I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day

What would be the point in going to a party on a space station when there’s a whole universe to explore?

The Sixth Doctor

Synopsis

A Christmas party that has been going on for three years. Strange silver robots who guard the Christmas decorations with lethal force. What is the secret behind the festivities on Tate Galactic?

Review

I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day has a difficult job in this release, which I guess I can reveal now is an anthology rather than four separate stories. This serves the role of the first part of the two-part finales that we have become familiar with in the course of the new series, and starts to tie together some of the threads we have encountered in the previous two stories here. This story has to toe the line carefully to not reveal too much at once, instead dropping hints and it largely does this well, but it probably helps that the story isn’t trying to handle as weighty issues as the previous two.

Listening to this story in the midst of a global pandemic and various lockdowns, the premise of the story, a Christmas party that seems to have been going on for three years, has some added poignancy. Although I am writing this in December, days like this have felt a lot like Groundhog Day, spent with the same group of people. When you throw Christmas into the mix, it almost feels worse – as someone who loves Christmas, a part of what makes it enjoyable is that it is only a short period of time. To spend every day in the midst of a Christmas party would be pretty horrific, so it is fitting that the concept is ultimately revealed to be a prison for the Were Lords devised by the Earth government. Ultimately, the party was only supposed to be an initial ruse for them, but something has gone wrong with the mainframe.

This is a story in which the Doctor proves to be his own worst enemy and manipulated by his enemies into doing the wrong thing, despite having the purest of intentions. Especially in the original show’s run, the Doctor doesn’t really ever stick around to see the consequences of his actions and interference, and here he believes that those imprisoned on the Tate Galactic are political prisoners. Nine times out of ten in a Doctor Who story, the Doctor would be doing the right thing in helping Lord Lycaon and the other prisoners out of this psychological prison. Here, it is absolutely the wrong thing to do, and it’s interesting to see the Doctor put into this position. It is only when the Earth President confronts him about his actions that the Doctor even begins to question his actions and how badly he has misread the situation. There are clues as to the villains’ true identities through the deterrents used in the base, including mistletoe and the silver robots, but Lycaon comes across as a genuinely wronged party for a lot of this story’s run time, and Stephen Elder is a worthy adversary to Colin Baker’s Sixth Doctor here.

This is also an important moment for Peri and Joe. The Doctor’s doubts about Joe’s suitability as a companion have been clear from the first story in this release, but here Joe expresses doubts about whether Peri is happy travelling with the Doctor. Joe has discovered that he has followers in the 59th Century, like a lot of pop culture icons do under the new belief system, and believes that he could have a lot of fun exploring the universe on his own terms. The emotional scars have not entirely healed for Peri from The Baby Awakes, and it feels as though this is heading for a collision course in the concluding part. Luke Allen-Gale and Nicola Bryant are good in the scenes that they share together and do come across as a real couple throughout these stories.

Verdict: A story that feels as though it is getting its ducks in a line ready for the concluding part, I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day is functional, but probably the weakest of the four stories in this release. 7/10

Cast: Colin Baker (The Doctor), Nicola Bryant (Peri Brown), Luke Allen-Gale (Joe Carnaby), Steven Elder (Lord Lycaon), Louise Kempton (Selene), Cliff Chapman (Robot Attendant) & Heather Bleasdale (President).

Writer: Andrew Lias

Director: John Ainsworth

Behind the Scenes

  • The writer’s name is a play on words on “alias”, for reasons which will become clear!

Best Quote

Act natural, drink, smile, pretend I’m saying something fascinating – which should be easy.

The Sixth Doctor

Previous Story: The Baby Awakes

The Baby Awakes

Why worry about arguing with your offspring in future years when you can choose a more agreeable child?

Cordeline

Synopsis

The Doctor, Peri and Joe visit the Ishtar Institute, where the term ‘designer babies’ takes on a new and sinister meaning. Will our heroes survive Christmas day?

Review

After dealing with religious persecution and slavery in Blood on Santa’s Claw, the next story deals with another heavy topic: eugenics. This is a very Peri-centric story and she provides the emotional heart here and it is difficult not to be moved by her performance. The story takes a rather traditional approach, with the first part focussing on the weird circumstances the characters find themselves in and the second revealing the circumstances behind it.

The story centres around the TARDIS trio investigating the mysterious Ishtar Institute, which allows prospective parents to simulate their children through the usage of incubator robots. In the opening scene of the story, we see one of the simulations of Christmas day derailed by unruly teenager, discounting him from adoption. Joe and Peri pose as potential parents, with the Sixth Doctor as the amiable Uncle, but Peri becomes emotionally attached to her simulated children, insisting on having more simulations as Cordeline, one of the Institute’s staff, tries to get them to discard one of the children. As a concept, designer babies are nothing new, as Joe points out that the idea is hardly novel on 1980s Earth, but it is given a sci-fi tilt here. The idea of trying out children being something as normal as a streaming subscription service is a bit creepy and feels like something that would be at home in an episode of Black Mirror. When it is revealed that Balan, the head of the facility is in fact one of these robots and has been callously giving rejected embryos to the military for them to develop into soldiers, the gut punch is much worse when it is revealed that Shreela is one of those embryos, rejected purely for a poor performance in a school play.

As stated above, this story does really focus in on Peri, and like a lot of stories in the Sixth Doctor’s era, she does really get put through the emotional wringer here. Scenes like the beach one perfectly demonstrate why she is having such a difficult time choosing between her children, regardless of whether or not they are only simulations. When she and Joe decide to simulate their children to their teenage years, they mutate and attack the facility, something which Joe later states is due to Peri’s travels with the Doctor, further making her feel guilty for the destruction they have caused. To make matters worse, the Doctor and Joe seem rather blasé about these simulated children’s eventual fate at the end of the story, leading to a great emotional outburst from her at the story’s end.

The story’s focus is away from the Doctor, and he is doing traditionally Doctor-y investigations. He, like Joe, is rather taken aback by Peri’s outburst towards the end of the story, which feels very much in keeping with the character of the Doctor, especially during the original run, where characters were expected to shake off tragic events easily from one adventure to the next. We still don’t have much of a feel for Joe, but he certainly doesn’t seem to be as attached to the children as Peri and this story has certainly put their relatively young relationship under some strain.

Verdict: Another story with some dark undertones, The Baby Awakes is an excellent example of Nicola Bryant’s strengths as Peri and certainly packs a fair share of emotional moments. 9/10

Cast: Colin Baker (The Doctor), Nicola Bryant (Peri Brown), Luke Allen-Gale (Joe Carnaby), Roger Parrott (Balan), Dawn Murphy (Cordeline/Dorrit), Becky Wright (Shreela/Jana/Pip/Janey) & Cliff Chapman (Kren/Paul).

Writer: Susan Dennom

Director: John Ainsworth

Behind the Scenes

  • The name ‘Susan Dennom’ is a play on the word pseudonym. The reasoning behind this will become clear!
  • The name of Peri and Joe’s children, Michael, Paul and Janey, are the ones given by future Peri in Peri and the Piscon Paradox – before she is revealed to be lying about having children.

Best Quote

TARDIS. That’s your safe word, isn’t it Doctor? Say the word ‘TARDIS’ and everything goes away. Well sometimes, it’s not ‘all’s well that ends well. And sometimes Br’er Rabbit doesn’t crawl out of the briar patch and laugh at Br’er Wolf.

Peri Brown

Previous Story: Blood on Santa’s Claw