Reviewed By: Drew Vogel
Review Date: 7/26/17 12:53 am
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I will confess to having some difficulty following this story. I remember being quite baffled by it the first time I listened to it. I remember thinking that I must have gotten two copies of Disc One by mistake, since Parts One and Three open so similarly. Even after the story ended, I wasn't entirely clear on what happened. I've listened to the story many times over the years (I listen and re-listen to my Big Finish collection almost constantly), and I'm still not entirely clear on the details. I understand the big picture well enough, but there are several annoying little plot questions that I've never quite been able to grasp.
At first, this diminished by enjoyment of the overall story, but lately, I find that it simply doesn't matter. It's quite enough for me to simply go along for the ride, and trust that it probably all more or less makes sense. Frankly, I could listen to Colin Baker's sixth Doctor match wits with Leslie Phillips's Doctor Knox all day and all night for a week without getting bored. The characters are so compelling, so well-matched, and so well-written, that I don't even mind so much what they're arguing about. While Dr. Knox doesn't even approach the level of the Doctor's genius, never the less he holds his own in their one-on-one match-up, and even lands some solid blows along the way.
While these two are undoubtedly the strongest characters of the piece, there are plenty of other good characters as well. Hare has a wonderful earthy menace that contrasts well with Knox's more elevated style. Mary Patterson is, in many ways, merely instrumental to the story, but she still feels like a fully-realized, three-dimensional character to me. And then of course, there's poor, sweet Daft Jamie, a delightful character played with great sensitivity by the actor who brought us Feltwebel Kurtz and Col. Brimmicombe-Wood. This David Tennant fellow is really one to watch.
Evelyn seems to drop out of the story in the last two episodes, but Maggie Stables makes the most of the script she's given, as usual. The discussion between the Doctor and Evelyn about the Doctor's attitude toward Burke and Hare is a highlight of the story. But I feel like a lot of people get the Doctor's position quite wrong (including Evelyn). The Doctor isn't saying that what Burke and Hare did was justifiable or even forgivable, let alone that it was right. He's saying that you recognize the immorality of their actions while still appreciating whatever good may have come from them. Granted, the writing lays it on a bit thick with the Doctor wanting to shake their hands, but I like to think that Doctor was exaggerating somewhat to be provocative.