Reviewed By: Drew Vogel
Review Date: 11/8/17 11:27 pm
1 out of 1 found this review helpful.
There's a lot wrong with this story, but it's not the absolute train wreck some make it out to be. Far from it. Still, my score of "7" might strike some as too high. To me, a "7" indicates a story which is neither good nor bad. Usually, I give a "7" to a story which is bland, forgettable, and mediocre. In this case, it's more because the merits of the story are balanced out by its defects.
Let's start with Floyd. I'm not disputing the historical accuracy of a black ex-slave siding with he Confederacy, because I'm not an expert on the U.S. Civil War, but historical accuracy isn't everything anyway. This is a story intended for a modern audience, and the U.S. Civil War is very much a contentious issue in America today. If you're going to deal with it, you had better deal with it carefully. Perhaps some black ex-slaves really did believe that the Civil War was fought over states' rights rather than slavery, but I doubt it. That's a canard of revisionist history. The Civil War was explicitly about slavery. Now, maybe Floyd didn't know that. That's okay. But since no one else in the story challenged his account, this story is inadvertently misinforming its audience in a very troubling way. I assume that Bidmead (and/or Briggs, who reportedly wrote the final version of the script based on Bidmead's unusable draft) just doesn't know much about the American Civil War and was misled by some bad sources. That's forgivable, but it's not okay. Using a black ex-slave character to push a racist whitewashing of the Confederacy is not okay.
And the story has problems. It's complicated, difficult to follow, and that "Three Blind Mice" sequence just doesn't work. On the other hand, it contains some really strong concepts and ideas. It's underdeveloped, but the idea that Daleks are conditioning humans by using pro-war propaganda is a wonderful anti-war statement. Also on the plus side, Peter Davison and Sarah Sutton put in outstanding performances (with the exception of some unfortunate cliffhanger acting from Sutton).
The story is fundamentally flawed, there's no denying it. But it's not a total disaster, and it's got the makings of a good story in there somewhere if you get past the flaws. It doesn't help that some of the characters are exceptionally annoying (looking at you, Major Alice). But go in with patience and an open mind. It's worth a listen.