Reviewed By: thisoldcan
Review Date: 8/30/17 3:55 pm
1 out of 2 found this review helpful.
The Blood Furnace opens with a murder that the Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) and his companions Mel (Bonnie Langford) and Ace (Sophie Aldred) soon realize is part of a larger, alien scheme. When they arrive in a Merseyside shipyard in 1991, the Doctor, Mel, and Ace go exploring the ship. But soon, Mel is reunited with an old friend, and an alien menace roams the shipyard. The Doctor and his friends must work to stop this alien menace before it's too late to turn back. The Blood Furnace is somewhat of a letdown, compared with last month's strong The High Price of Parking; rather than continuing that strong trend, it returns to the average trend of previous 7/Mel/Ace stories. While Aldred continues to impress as Ace and the combination of McCoy, Langford, and Aldred is still nice for a gimmick, I can't help but be disappointed by this story, and it's bland story of aliens directing the building of a spaceship.
Sylvester McCoy returns as the seventh incarnation of the Doctor here in this story. I did find that I liked McCoy a lot more compared to other recent Seventh Doctor stories, because he's letting some of that "darker" Seventh Doctor slip back into his performance here. It, oddly, energizes his performance a bit, making him one of the highlights of the story itself. Also returning are Bonnie Langford as Mel and Sophie Aldred as Ace. Langford is enjoyable as Mel as always, but doesn't really get much to do in this story. It's far removed from her days as a scream queen of sorts, but it's a shame that they can't use Langford and her harder edges a bit more in these audios. Aldred however, continues to shine as Ace. Ace is such a great character, and she's so well portrayed by Aldred; I'm always in awe of the fact that Aldred can sound so youthful, even at 54.
Long-time Big Finish writer Eddie Robson wrote this story, giving us an okay tale of aliens and shipyards. The story was strongest when it focused on the Doctor and his allies, while I felt it dragged when focusing on the villains. I liked the clash of personalities between Mel and her old friend Stuart (Todd Heppenstall) and Orla (Clare Calbraith). Those interactions were always enjoyable, and some of the highlights of the story. Additionally, I felt that the ending of the story, where the Doctor confronts Carolyn (Julie Graham) as the ship is about to go down, was a brilliant scene. I thought the decision to have Carolyn go down with the ship was a smart one, as was the prediction the Doctor made about Carolyn trying to kill him if he gave her a second chance. Too often, the Doctor gives second chances to people who don't deserve it and, except for one instance (Forever Fallen), it never works out for the Doctor. So the decision to have him bypass that was a great choice. However, I felt that the story tended to drag otherwise when focusing on the villains, because their plan wasn't really that interesting. They wanted to build ships and try to conquer the universe, just like every single other race in the universe. While I thought their design was interesting, and very similar to the Carrionites (even the design is similar) with them using words to control people, I can't help but feel like they were a last minute creation, and a pale imitation.
Overall though, The Blood Furnace was an okay story. While the story dragged at times, and the villains were rather lackluster, even if their design was interesting, the ending of the story was a solid an ending as you can get on Doctor Who, and a breathe of fresh air from similar stories. The cast of this story was pretty good, with McCoy dusting off his "dark" Seventh Doctor personality a bit, and Aldred continuing to shine as Ace. Langford continues to be criminally underused, especially with her rough edges making for an interesting character, but she still did okay with what she was given. Overall, while it's a bit of a shame that the story wasn't a bit more interesting, it was still an overall solid story.