Reviewed By: thisoldcan
Review Date: 9/12/17 4:40 pm
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In The Silurian Candidate, the Doctor (Sylvester McCoy), Mel (Bonnie Langford), and Ace (Sophie Aldred) arrive in what was once China in the year 2085, in the midst of a new Cold War. The East and West blocs are poised to unleash a torrent of missles upon one another at the slightest provocation. And in the midst of it, Professor Ruth Drexler (Fiona Sheehan) is on a secret mission deep in the Eastern bloc, looking to discover the ancient Parliamnet of the Silurians. So when the Doctor and Drexler meet, humanity should be saved; but the Doctor has a secret mission as well, one that may put him at odds with the planet he has loved for all his lives. The Silurian Candidate ends this year's Seventh Doctor trilogy with an enjoyable, Cold War-esque story, featuring a rather brilliant subplot with the Doctor and his plans with the Silurians, and a return of the more manipulative Seventh Doctor. McCoy shines in this story, as do both Langford and Aldred, while guest stars Sheehan and Nicholas Asbury both give notable performances. Matthew J Elliot's story is a thoroughly enjoyable one, with lots of great character clashes, and an enjoyable, tense story, with a satisfying ending to it.
Sylvester McCoy once again reprises his role as the Seventh Doctor, and we have the return of the manipulative, secretive Seventh Doctor with this story. McCoy, despite rumours that he dislikes the more manipulative Seven, is on point here as that particular version of the Doctor, rolling his 'r''s, and playing the role of the secretive schemer with particular relish throughout the story. I particularly enjoyed McCoy's big speech at the end, promising the Earth to the Silurians if they'd just go to sleep for a few thousand years more, because McCoy just knocked it out of the park. He was pleading, he was hopeful, and he expressed genuine care for making sure the Silurians were happy in the end. Bonnie Langford and Sophie Aldred also reprise their roles as Mel and Ace, brought together many years after the events of Dragonfire. Langford is particularly great in this story, as she stands in contrast to previous stories from the last two years, being given something important in this story. Rather than being shunted off to the side to make way for more Seven and Ace adventures, it actually feels like Mel is an integral part of this story, as she stays behind to be the "compassionate" one (according to the Doctor) and her role in ensuring the plans of Falco would be found out and stopped. Similarly, Aldred gives an excellent performance here, reverting to her old ways of questioning the Doctor and his motives, and feeling that she's not trusted. In her own words, she feels that she, "constantly has to prove herself" to the Doctor, and that the only reason she travels with him is, "because she still doesn't trust him". She gives a rather excellent performance, especially as she realizes that the Doctor's plans are to give the Earth back to the Silurians. She reverts to her suspicious version of Ace rather well, almost as if a lot of the stories since the 200th release never existed.
In the guest star category, there were numerous guest stars, but the highlights include Fiona Sheehan and Nicholas Asbury. Sheehan pulls double duty in this story, portraying Professor Ruth Drexler, a scientist looking to uncover the hibernation technology of the Silurians, as well as member of the Silurian triad, Avvox. It's her role as Drexler that stands out most here, as an earnest yet hardened leader of a scientific operation. Sheehan is enjoyable throughout, often acting as a grounded counterpoint to the TARDIS crew, and for that, she's an excellent addition to the cast. Asbury is another excellent addition to the cast as head of the Western bloc, Chairman Bart Falco. He's a bit of an asshole, and that aspect of his character is played with relish by Asbury, who does a really great job bringing this crass, boisterous character to life. His ending too is a strong bit of work, as he effortlessly slips into the character of a Silurian puppet.
Matthew J Elliot's script is where the story begins to really come together, as one of the stronger Seventh Doctor stories in recent years. The story of a Cold War-esque conflict set in Earth's future, mixed with a Silurian invasion is an interesting story in and of itself, but not necessarily one that can carry the entire story for two hours. It's the subplot that Elliot gives to the Doctor, having him attempting to give the Earth back to the Silurians, and the eventual payoff of that story, that elevate this story so much. Of the first two aspects of the story, those are done well by Elliot. The characters he created for that, especially Falco and Drexler, alongside his interpretations about the TARDIS crew and their characterizations, mesh well to make for an interesting conflict that the Doctor and his friends get caught up in. I particularly liked the scenes with Falco throughout the story, and the interactions that he had with Drexler and the TARDIS crew.
But to address the latter aspect of the story, the idea of the Doctor giving the planet back to the Silurians is a shocking one. It's no secret that the Doctor recognizes that the Silurians have more of a claim to the Earth than humanity does, and he recognizes that over the years, he's done a great many terrible things to the Silurians, as they simple attempt to reclaim what is rightfully theirs. But for the Doctor to seemingly completely side with the Silurians, instead of attempting diplomacy comes as nothing short of a shock, and indeed, a lot of what makes Ace so great in this story arises from that shock. But the plan, and it's resolution in the end is frankly a brilliant bit of writing by Elliot, as he proves how well he knows the Doctor, by having him set the Silurians on a track to wake up just as humanity is returning following the devastation of the planet. He hopes that the two species will be able to work together to inhabit the planet, and that ending comes as a brilliant bit of writing, because it's left open as to whether or not the Doctor will be right in the end.
The final aspect of the story I'd like to focus on is the excellent cover artwork by Anthony Lamb. Right off the bat, the thing that jumps out at me the most is the colouring of the cover; it's a gradient, starting off with traditionally "human" colours, and shading down to more "Silurian" colours at the bottom. I really like that aspect of the cover, because it addresses the overall plot of the story and how it progresses; it starts as a human story, but ends as a Silurian story. Also, I quite like how Lamb uses the cover to the full extent; often times, most covers simply use the space to the right of the banner, but Lamb chooses to use the full cover, giving it a bit more life, as Mel and Ace are running away from the dinosaur. It's a small aspect of the cover, but one I really enjoy. Overall, Lamb's work on the cover is rather excellent, and Lamb is a cover artist I'd like to see get a lot more work, compared to some other artists Big Finish employs.
Overall, The Silurian Candidate is an excellent story on several fronts. It's well acted throughout, with some excellent performances by the main cast, and a couple of great performances by guest cast members Fiona Sheehan and Nicholas Asbury. It's also very well written by Matthew J Elliot. Elliot captures the feel of several different eras with his story, but more importantly gives the story an interesting concept, with regards to the Doctor's secret mission. Coupled with the excellent characterizations that Elliot gives to the main and guest cast, the story is an excellent adventure for the Seventh Doctor, Mel, and Ace, and one of the best adventures for this particular TARDIS crew.