THIS EPISODE TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE BIG
"AN EARTHLY CHILD."
BIG FINISH 8TH DOCTOR
CD#4.01 (ISBN 1-8443
5-401-6) RELEASED IN
Lucie Miller always
loved Christmas back
home in Blackpool.
Her Mam running a
under the hot tap at
Miller half-cut on
cooking sherry by
eleven. Her Dad and
her uncle arguing
hammer and tongs
about who was the
best James Bond all
And in the afternoon,
Aunty Pat, haring up
to the house on the
back of SOME moped
weighed down with
Christmas 2009 didn't
turn out like that.
Christmas 2009, the
Doctor turned up…
Death in Blackpool
Death in Blackpool isn’t a title that one instantly associates with the jingling
of sleigh bells, nonetheless it is the name given to Big Finish’s first out-and-out Christmas Special, and it’s as a clear and as representative a label as ever I’ve come across. Rather than compete with the colour and the spectacle of the television series’ previous yuletide romps, Alan Barnes’ script instead pays homage to another festive ritual – the domestic misery and death of British soap.
Charged with bringing Lucie Miller’s travels in time and space to a memorable and affecting end, Barnes’ story goes down the excruciating road of driving a wedge between the Doctor and his companion. Despite what many of us inferred from the story’s title, Lucie doesn’t die here, but her relationship with the Doctor does. Death in Blackpool sees Lucie discover the truth about what happened to her Aunty Pat in 1985; the truth that the Doctor and Pat’s body-usurping husband, Hagoth, conspired to keep from her. And when she does, it knocks the Doctor off his pedestal, leaving Lucie tearful and alone on a Blackpool beach, a cold breeze blowing up the back of her surgical gown. It all comes out at Christmas, see…
Barnes’ handles the breakdown of the relationship between the two regulars with agonising aplomb, and both Paul McGann and Sheridan Smith really make the most of the material. Smith is especially impressive, right from her opening “chuff” to her final denunciation of the imperfect Doctor.
“As I said love, I’m a porter. I move folk about…”
Our leads are challenged every step of the way, however, by the dazzling supporting cast. Helen Lederer’s (Absolutely Fabulous) turn as the erstwhile Zygon warlord masquerading as his dead spouse, Lucie’s Aunty Pat, is wonderfully enchanting. I love how she conveys the duality of the unique character, particularly in her tender scenes at Lucie’s bedside and her passionate moral debates with the Doctor.
David Schofield, similarly, does an astounding job with Billy / Landak, the play’s antagonist. Landak is a Zynog - a Zygon exile, cast out from his people as punishment for stealing the body print of a fellow Zygon. Forced to live in the bodies of the brain-dead, Landak prays upon those whose minds are close to death, but whose bodies are still tenable – those like his recent hit and run victim, Lucie Miller…
Indeed, for a story inspired by the scandals
of soap, Death in Blackpool is a wonderfully
effective chiller. Much of the narrative takes
place within the eerie coma world that exists
inside the injured Lucie’s mind; a world not
populated with Audi Quattros and colourfully-
drawn police mavericks, but manipulative,
body-hopping aliens with a knack for turning
the motives and feelings of their quarry against
“Merry Christmas everyone!”
However, Barnes’ bleak midwinter is lightened slightly by Jon Glover’s out of work, Brummie Father Christmas. Particularly in the first half of the story, Glover’s character really injects the proceedings with some much-needed levity. I especially like how, for about three quarters of the running time, all the characters refer to him as “Father Christmas”, and speak to him as if he were actually the genuine article. It lends the play a surreal, drunken quality that positively reeks of Christmas.
Overall then, my only real complaint about Lucie’s swansong would be that after the promise of the blurb, we don’t ever get to meet the Millers! Fortunately though, this is more than made up for by a suitably spooky and emotionally-draining script, some outstanding performances, and ending that will rip you right in two.
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.
When is now? This release’s blurb writer clearly didn’t get the memo, as the dialogue makes it clear that these events are set during Christmas 2008, not 2009. That’s right – as the Lucie is bidding the Doctor a painful adieu on a Blackpool beach, the starship Titanic is hurtling towards Buckingham Palace!
Unless otherwise stated, all images on this site are copyrighted to the BBC and are used solely for promotional purposes.
‘Doctor Who’ is copyright © by the BBC. No copyright infringement is intended.