THIS STORY TAKES
FINISH AUDIO DRAMAS
"THE SHADOW OF THE
SCOURGE" AND "KLEIN'S
BIG FINISH CD#130
RELEASED IN JANUARY
1950s Kenya. The Mau
Mau uprising. A group
of women lie low in a
remote house in the
jungle, waiting for
a resolution or for
rescue. Among these
is Elizabeth Klein, a
refugee from a TIME-
LINE that no longer
exists… thanks to
Reunited, the Doctor
and Klein are forced
to set aside their
MANY differences by
People are dying in
this remote place.
One by one. there's
something out in the
only by the flutter
of a thousand tiny
A Thousand Tiny Wings is, at first glance, a straightforward base-under-siege Doctor Who adventure. The aurally-opulent backdrop of the 1950s Mau Mau uprising and the Kenyan jungle may lend it a certain distinction, and the manner in which the author Andy Lane goes about disposing of his characters is certainly as innovative as it is horrifying, but what really makes this production such an exceptional endeavour is its brave and brilliant resurrection of a character from the seventh Doctor’s (and indeed Big Finish’s) past: time-travelling Nazi ice maiden, Doctor Elizabeth Klein.
Steve Lyons’ Colditz remains to this day one of my favourite Big Finish releases, but I must admit that I’d long-since given up hope of a sequel by the time that this one was announced. However, Klein’s fate - and therefore the singular threat that she posed - was left deliciously open by Lyons’ complex script, and if there is one thing that the seventh Doctor can’t stand, it’s a loose end…
And though I didn’t find the science-fiction thread of Lane’s plot particularly compelling, his character drama is absolutely first-rate here. As well as the continuous clash between the diametrically-opposed philosophies of the Doctor and Klein (as to which, see below), we also have some stunning shades of grey such as Ann Bell’s Mrs O’Donnell – an ostensibly odious but, in some ways, really quite admirable colonial that in most other productions would have stolen the show.
“I’m the Doctor and this is… my friend, Elizabeth Klein.”
Inescapably though, where A Thousand Tiny Wings truly shines is in its exploration of the Doctor and Klein; what sets them apart; and even what makes them similar. Lane’s script
is very clever in how it brings the two characters together in a credible manner, whilst at the same time maintaining an open sense of mutual loathing that does not wane even as the story progresses towards its climax. The Doctor’s strategy will be patent to most listeners from a very early point in the play, and so I don’t think I’m spoiling anything by saying that it isn’t his intention to defeat Klein; lock her up; or even bait her towards her own destruction. Instead, the Doctor intends to minimise the danger that Klein’s survival poses to history by educating and changing her – a task that is far easier said than done.
I think what makes listening to the
relationship between Sylvester
McCoy and Tracey Childs’ two
characters so enthralling is that,
for all her malevolence, Klein is
fiercely intelligent. She’s not the
Doctor’s intellectual match by any means, yet throughout the narrative she manages to tie him in knots with her unscrupulous logic, really managing to hold her own with the Time Lord as they row over everything from the difference between saving a few lives and altering the course of history (“stones and rocks”, as the Doctor neatly puts it) to the merits of amputating an infected limb or having the trains run on time (“it depends on what happens to the drivers when they’re late”, the Doctor quips). Klein even scores a couple of points off the Doctor – her cynical distrust of one character that the Doctor chooses to give the benefit of the doubt ultimately proves to be well-founded, and her cutting, but nonetheless astute assessment of the Doctor’s manipulation of Abraham right at the death really seems to cut deep.
Above: Alex Mallinson's roasting centrefold
In the end A Thousand Tiny Wings concludes as we all knew that it would, with Klein joining the Doctor aboard the TARDIS as his new travelling companion. He is planning to show her the universe with the aim of opening her eyes to its wonder and curtailing her capacity for evil; she, I’m certain, is planning something altogether different – something that McCoy’s Doctor has doubtless already foreseen and countered! The way I see it, their conflict can only be resolved in one of two ways, but I can’t wait to find out which and how…
All in all, A Thousand Tiny Wings is an intriguing and provocative character piece, which Lane injects with just enough deed and horror to maintain a surprisingly frenetic pace. Lisa Bowerman has done an extraordinary job with her direction, and with a Kenyan jungle to play in, Richard Fox and Lauren Yason have really excelled themselves with their sound design and score, which is buoyed by cover artist Alex Mallinson’s sporadic grunting. However, the most credit has to go to David Richardson and John Ainsworth for having the sheer gall to bring back one of Big Finish’s most iniquitous supporting characters and place her by the Doctor’s side for 2010’s opening trilogy of adventures, and - of course - to Tracey Childs and the unsettlingly-moustachioed Sylvester McCoy, without whom…
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2010
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
The Big Finish website states that this story takes place after the audio drama Kingdom of Silver (and, I would assume, the one-off episode Keepsake that formed part of the same release) and this is certainly consistent with the production code allocated the story – 7Z/E, which follows Keepsake’s 7Z/D.
However, Alex Mallinson’s CD cover artwork portrays a seventh Doctor patently much younger than the one shown on the covers of Sylvester McCoy’s lone audio adventures, and what's more he is wearing the white linen suit of the median New Adventures (a fact made explicit in the dialogue), as opposed to his TV Movie garb seen in the final New Adventures and the bulk of the audio adventures in which he’s travelling alone.
This suggests that this story, as well as the three “Klein” adventures that follow it, take place at some point between the New Adventures novels White Darkness and Bad Therapy, at a point in his life when the Doctor had left his companions behind to travel alone (most probably with the express intention of putting paid to the Klein threat once and for all). The most likely gap therefore seems to be between The Shadow of the Scourge and The Prisoner’s Dilemma, at which time Ace is occupied on Erratoon and Bernice is on board Deep Space Research Centre Orbos.
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