Doctor Who: Bloodtide [Big Finish]

Bloodtide, a Big Finish Doctor Who audio adventure featuring Colin Baker as the 6th Doctor, has a number of things to recommend it. It’s a gripping little adventure in which the Doctor takes his companion, Evelyn Smythe, to the Galapogos so she can see Charles Darwin at work, but ending up running afoul of some nastiness (as the Doctor is prone to do). In this case, it’s with the classic-TV monsters, the Silurians, who in Doctor Who-land are the reptilian species that ruled the earth prior to the rise of human beings, went underground into suspended animation when things got bad on the earth, and then woke up in fits and starts (so that we could have multiple stories built on the premise) only to find out that people had gotten all civilized and invented television, taxes, and tanks, usually responding with a mixture of irritation and belligerence.

For the Silurians, it’s a significant story because it not only reveals why the Silurians failed to wake up on time, but also that they are responsible for human beings in the first place! It turns out a Silurian scientist was banished the die on the surface of the world for his sacreligious experiments, but was rescued by a sympathetic friend instead and placed into suspended animation. Before going to sleep, though, he sabotaged most of the other suspended animation  devices that most of his fellow Silurians would die. But then it also turns out that the experiments that got this guy into trouble in the first place were basically responsible for turning the primitive ape-like creatures into homo-sapiens (for slave labor, or food, I forget which. Maybe both). See – genetic experiments always cause problems!

If you can divorce yourself from all the theological implications of everything going on, then the story is generally exciting and well-produced, with a good performance by Colin Baker (as usual) and a satisfactory one from the guest cast (although there are a few examples of what seems to be a Big Finish trope – really strange and extreme accents). It’s my first real introduction to Evelyn Smythe as well, who is a character created specifically for Big Finish’s audio line, and she’s enjoyable enough.

Unfortunately, I personally find it a bit challenging to completely divorce myself from the theological implications because the story makes quite a strong point of them. Charles Darwin himself is a major guest character and over the story we see him basically develop his entire theory of evolution – going from someone who is at first a bit troubled by the implications to his view of God as a creator to someone who is not only convinced but also at ease with the idea that God is a non-existent man-made fantasy. It’s even his newfound “faith” in natural selection that gives him the ability to overcome the Silurian’s psychic assault at the story’s climax. I do not know enough about Darwin to know if this is a representative impression or not, but it comes across as a bit of a forced story point, convenient to the views, I assume, of the production team. Darwin’s (and by extension, humanity’s) “antiquated” views are paralleled with that of the Silurian power structure who kicked out the villain and ended up paying for it, to make the point stronger.

Evelyn, for her part, seems to smile sagely at Darwin as he disposes of his quaint and fanciful notions, while the Doctor tries to encourage him that even without a divine creator, there’s still a lot to be excited about because of the variety of life that exists in the universe. It all reads a bit too much like preaching rather than storytelling (something that admittedly I know I have been guilty of as well), which is a pity because it is otherwise a pretty good adventure.

2 thoughts on “Doctor Who: Bloodtide [Big Finish]

  1. Oh, the accent work! I didn’t notice it so much at the time off the back of Minuet in Hell’s dodgy southern accents but listening to this recently there are some really OTT performances here.

    I enjoyed reading this review and your thoughts on this story and the issues it raised.

    I liked this story a lot when I first heard it – it was not only one of my very first audios but one of the earliest Who adventures I experienced. Listening to it again I think the wheels fall off in the second half as it falls into the trap of telling the same Silurian story as we see in each of their TV appearances but the first half is really quite interesting IMO.

    The other thing that I noticed is that it takes the history professor far, far too long to work out where they are at the start of this story!

  2. Thanks for the comments! Yes, Minuet in Hell is sort of the king of strange accents, at least out of the Big Finish’s that I’ve heard so far.

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