Reviewed By: JMChurch25
Review Date: 3/2/18 5:40 pm
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This is one of the increasingly rare Doctor Who stories that is a pure and honest to God historical. The specific topic of the title is something that I knew absolutely nothing about and so I avoided it initially at first glance. But when it was recommended to me by half a dozen people on a Reddit forum as one of the darkest and most affecting Doctor Who audio stories ever produced, I simply had to take another glance at it as well as do my research on the event in question. As I'm not at all British, I may not be the best person to give my thoughts or perspective on the event itself but as it turns out, the Peterloo Massacre is a relatively small but brutal event in British history with immense influences and repercussions throughout the UK similar as to how the Boston Massacre lands as a turning point for American history. It's a fascinating topic and after listening to this story, I'm not going to forget about it anytime soon. As it is a fixed point in history, there's little that the Doctor and team can do about it once they land in the time period except to experience it first hand which is exactly what this story delivers. There are no futuristic shenanigans, no real villain other than history itself, no other aliens other than the Doctor and Nyssa, and no other outside interference. It's just the Doctor and crew living and becoming emotionally invested in the events and setting as they happen which is not only refreshing but easily the best and most mature way writer Paul Magrs could've handled this kind of material. Not only do we get to experience the massacre first hand but we also get an extremely believable side cast in a flawed family unit led by a rich self-made man that ends up being directly affected by the events and practically split apart by it. The script and soundscape are ominous in tone and energy and the moments of the actual massacre are absolutely brutal and one of the most affecting things I've ever heard in audio form even down to the musical backdrop backed by powerful choir singers. The closest parallel I can come to making is the Red Wedding from 'Game of Thrones' and it affects everyone to their core. It's very dark, extremely bleak, and viscerally harrowing but ultimately respectful as the script does do a good job in reminding you that while the immediate effects were negative the long term effects were absolutely positive as a major turning point for workers and women in Britain. The acting is again on point with Peter Davison's Fifth Doctor really getting to stretch his acting chops emotionally. I've never seen his Doctor get so justifiably angry and his confrontations with the yeoman and those involved in the conditions and killing really gave me chills. Janet Fielding's Tegan also does a great job in being the audience reminder in addressing the conditions of the time and questioning what she doesn't understand and sees as wrong particularly the working conditions of the people. Her perspective and actions really bring the events of the massacre home and why such an uproar and fight was necessary at the time. And Nyssa.....oh wow Nyssa. Sarah Sutton's Nyssa has the hardest moment of the whole audio in delivering news of the death of a child to their parent and her fire and fury that's normally so restrained is powerful to be hold especially in holding the Doctor to his promise that while they can't affect the larger picture they can at least help the individual lives affected by it. It's not quite a perfect story in that the beginning and ending feel a little bit rushed and no real consequences are seen for the militia involved in the killing which did bother me a little bit. But again, these are minor quibbles around a very solid core. In the end, I wouldn't call "The Peterloo Massacre" a fun audio listen in any way. I've never felt such a sense of dread or anxiety listening to a story before as I did in the first half of this one and it very much delivers on the power and devastation. But at the same time it stands as one of the strongest Fifth Doctor stories out there and it's one that I very much recommend to all Whovians out there for a listen as a great example of how powerful the pure Doctor Who historical can be when done right.